Observations on the Death of Gaddafi

The long-overdue death of Muammar Gaddafi–now that he is finally gone, can we agree on how to spell his name?–has prompted two main reactions, both of which strike me as misguided.

The first is the claim by many newspaper reporters and other liberals that Gaddafi’s demise demonstrates the great success of President Obama’s Libya policy. This is often coupled with criticism of conservatives for failing to join in acclaiming the administration’s great success. In my view, this sort of carping represents more bad faith from liberals and their minions in the press. I, like most conservatives, am glad to see Gaddafi dead. Ronald Reagan tried to kill him in the 1980s, and regrettably failed. Gaddafi had many sins to account for, and his death was welcome.

That is a very different matter, however, from applauding the Obama administration’s policies in the region. I, like many other conservatives, have two main concerns about Libya. First, what happens next? It remains to be seen whether the regime that follows Gaddafi’s will be an improvement. From the standpoint of American interests, it could well be worse. The legitimacy of this worry was emphasized by today’s headlines to the effect that Libya’s new leaders intend to implement Sharia law. It is deeply ironic that liberals, who refused to acknowledge the significance of the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, one of America’s bitterest enemies, and reveled in the difficulties that followed, now seem oblivious to the fact that we cannot assess the significance of Gaddafi’s demise until we see what comes after.

My second concern, along with many other conservatives, is the sheer incoherence of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. It is good, I guess, that our president is willing to kill America’s enemies, but I wish he would show a little more consistency in doing so. Last we knew, Syria’s Assad, a much more important enemy than Gaddafi, was a “reformer.” If we are in the business of killing people, how about him? And, of course, our most significant enemy in the region is Iran, toward which Obama has adopted an “open hand” policy. How about if we offer an open hand to Gaddafi, and try to kill Ahmadinejad and Khamenei instead? But I suppose it is too late for that.

So I am glad to see Gaddafi dead, if only in revenge for Lockerbie, but I am not certain that our interests have been greatly advanced by his killing.

The second general reaction to Gaddafi’s killing has been horror at its brutality, coupled with calls for an “investigation.” This strikes me as a typical manifestation of liberal ignorance of history. When a brutal tyrant has ruled for more than 40 years, killing many thousands of innocents in the process, and finally is brought down by a popular revolt and hunted to his final hiding place in a sewer–what, exactly, do liberals expect? That he will gently be placed under arrest, read his rights, and led off to a comfortable prison to await due process of law, in a place where such due process has never existed? Apparently so. But is that what happened to Mussolini? Or Hitler? Or Ceausescu? Or countless other tyrants through world history? Evil dictators sometimes live happily ever after, like Idi Amin, but when their victims get their hands on them, the results are generally not pretty. Do liberals want to launch an investigation into who shot and strung up Mussolini? What, exactly, did they think would happen if their policy of driving Gaddafi from power was successful?

Oh, and, by the way, how do liberals think people who are hit with Hellfire missiles look, after the fact? Or family members who may have been in the vicinity? If we are going to investigate who killed Gaddafi, is it time to investigate who fired the Hellfire missiles that incinerated or blew to bits American citizens like Anwar al-Awlaki? Or who authorized those missiles to be fired–like, say, Barack Obama? Is the only difference the existence of cell phone video footage?

Once again, liberals seem unable to draw basic moral distinctions, and–even worse–unable to make a decision to advance the national interest and stick to it.

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