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Is Libya Free At Last?

October 29, 2011; Jamieson Wang, Contributor

With the rising of the Arab Spring throughout the Middle East, the word democracy has come to be indistinguishable from “change.” While the tyranny and crimes of previous rulers cannot and should not be denied, its hard to say whether simply removing them from power will have the desired effect on the politics of the country. The revolution in Libya has been an eight month-long process of back and forth, and failed foreign intervention; is this truly the road to democracy?

In the heat of the rioting, the rebels’ goal was clear: remove Gaddafi from power and take control of Tripoli. They accomplished this task on October 20, and the buzz from the media has been expectedly relentless. Both the rebels and foreign nations are hopeful that this will greatly ease Libya’s democratic transition. However, nothing is ever so simple. One death does not simply ensure the rebirth of an entire nation.

Libyan rebels run through the streets of Sirte at news of Gaddafi's death

With the media surge there have surfaced various videos on the Internet; visual records of how Gaddafi was found and killed. Assorted news publications have publicized personal statements from the rebels who were present, and even from those who claimed to have ended it all from the barrel of their own gun. One report on quotes a rebel saying that he could not bear the thought of taking Gaddafi alive. While this is understandable considering the likelihood that this man suffered greatly under his rule, it makes us question if the rebels are united in the acknowledgement of what kind of “change” they want and if they truly understand what democracy is.

Personally, I’m an advocate for the idea of “being the bigger person,” to put the situation in perspective. If the rebels wanted to display the ways in which they were going to be different from the old Colonel, they failed miserably. If they wanted to show the world that Libya was ready to embrace democracy, they did not do so. The message sent out by this action, and the way it was committed, is one of severity and violence. A few months ago those two words could easily have been used to describe Gaddafi’s regime.

The topic, though, is one that must be approached with sensitivity. While Gaddafi’s death does indeed send out a clear message to other leaders who have acted similarly during their time in power, perhaps it does not encourage them to change but rather to further consolidate their authority. Hate and vengeance have proven to be as strong, or stronger, than the desire for change. If other leaders who are threatened assume that their people would not hesitate to end them if given the chance, it’s most likely that they will not give them the opportunity to ever be in such a position.

Refocusing on Libya, however, it seems that most of the fighting is over. Gaddafi loyalists, after 40 years, will be unlikely to simply find a new inspiration, let alone be willing to fight for a cause and man that is no longer alive. For the sake of the country, we can only hope that the rebels remain dedicated to democracy and that their tyranny has ended with the death of the tyrant himself.


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