News out of Libya is joyous. Especially if you are a Libyan. The death of Moammar Gadhafi is being celebrated by the people of Libya as it should be. And like the removal, and death, of other dictators over the last few months, there is a certain sense of release and relief spreading around the globe. But before we get too swept up in the euphoria, we should take a few moments and recognize that the downfall of a dictator, even if it is something that is desired, is not a panacea.
For the most part, I suspect that the people of Libya, or Egypt or Iraq are very much like those of us in the United States. They get up, they go to work, they do their job and they come home. Under a dictator, unlike us, there is the added fear of being picked up by the secret police for simple crimes, like thinking or trying to better themselves without paying off the right people, or just because their neighbour does not like the colour they painted their house. These are very real fears. Fears that hopefully now they are able to put behind them. We will see how that pans out over the next 8 to 10 months as these countries move towards free and open elections. You will note that I am not convinced that these elections will be either free nor open. Time will tell. I certainly hope that they will. But as we have seen, many of these nations have been rebelling against western ideas for years, and I am afraid that now that their leaders are less western, in both education and vision, will revert to more religious mannerisms for rule.
But that scares me less than not knowing who is in charge. Moammar Gadhafi was a nut job. Flaky, I believe President Reagan called him. But at least he was in charge. You could follow the money in and the weapons out. This was true of most of the dictatorships. You only had to watch one person. Maybe two. With the over throw of the dictator, you have a much bigger problem. Who do you watch? Libya was described by the BBC yesterday and the weapons bazaar of the Middle East. But with only one merchant minding the shop, it was easy to know who you were dealing with. Now there is a very serious question about who is minding the store and more importantly, who is buying and selling the weapons that many believe are not only there, but will shortly be making their way to individuals that make Moammar Gadhafi look sane, grounded, and fun to work with. And these individuals want nothing more than the complete annihilation of the West, and the modern way of doing things.
This is not a complaint against the people of Libya or those who have been crying out for their basic human rights since the Arab Spring began. They are fully entitled to those rights and privileges enjoyed by many around the world. But I am concerned that with the rapidity of change, and the lack of real leadership in any of these countries that if we take our eye off the ball now, we may be regretting it later.
Are you paying attention?