The death of Muammar Gaddafi on October 20, 2011, signaled the end of a battle over a totalitarian dictatorship and a victory for the Libyan people. Some argue that it also represented a victory for President Obama and his attempts at reelection. While I believe this is so, it seems that this victory for Obama will be short-lived, due to problems at home such as the budget and the war in Afghanistan. Additionally, I take issue with the media’s representation of Gaddafi’s death and believe this poses a risk to the Obama Administration.
The sensationalism surrounding Gaddafi’s death cannot be seen as a foreign policy victory for the United States and the Obama Administration. Although Gaddafi was a horrendous dictator, he was still a human being, and I was alarmed by the ways his death was portrayed. To continuously turn on my television and read a newspaper seeing the snapshots and videos of Gaddafi’s death was extremely horrifying. Despite this, I find it critically important that Gaddafi’s slaying was carried out by the Libyan rebels and that those rebels had the backing of the United States. It often seems that as a country, we are prone to carrying our democratic ideals to foreign lands – this was very much the case in Afghanistan. This is the first time that I have witnessed the United States, post-9/11, backing the overthrow of a dictatorship, although we can include the uprisings in Egypt in this. Because we did not enter into Libya and seek to disarm and kill Gaddafi and his government ourselves, this is a foreign policy victory in that we have garnered respect the world over for our reservation in this matter. It was strategic of us to limit our involvement whilst rallying the international community in favor of the Libyan rebels and giving them our support.
Now I come to question what will come of Libya now that Gaddafi’s regime has fallen. Will Libya become like Afghanistan in its efforts to sustain a transitional government while building a new one? I fear that the United States, due to our past history, will shun our success in this endeavor in order to further promote democracy in the Middle East. We would be doing ourselves and the Libyan people a great disservice if this were to be the case. For once, we should allow a people to construct their own democratic government (if that is what they choose to do) and should maintain a respectful distance while supporting them in any way we possibly can. As for United States-Libyan relations, I believe that they will remain strong as long as we are not meddling in the construction of their government and they can serve as an ally and possible mediator in our relations with neighboring countries. Additionally, our relationship with Libya and the rebels’ slaying of Gaddafi perhaps serves as a lesson to other tyrants in Arab countries and throughout the rest of the world.I would like to note one thing: there have been increasing reports of the slayings of pro-Gaddafi supporters which I believe is a human rights concern. Additionally, there have been a plethora of reports about videos displaying the sodomizing of Gaddafi after his capture. These are issues that Americans should be discussing, as we idealize personal safety and freedom, but we are not. It is imperative that while we hail the Libyan rebels for their defeat of a monstrous tyrant, we remember our commitment to human rights and adhere to allowing Libya to create its own democratic governments.
Contact Dena Robinson at [email protected]