Cato’s Chris Preble writes:
Qaddafi’s death does not validate the original decision to launch military operations without authorization from Congress. The Libyan operation did not advance a vital national security interest, a point that former secretary of defense Robert Gates stressed at the time. Qaddafi could have been brought down by the Libyan people, but the Obama administration’s decision to overthrow him may now implicate the United States in the behavior of the post-Qaddafi regime. That is unfair to the American people, and to the Libyan people who can and must be held responsible for fashioning a new political order.
As we ponder the welcome news of Qaddafi’s capture, we should also recall the lessons from Iraq, and as they have played out in Libya. The fall of Baghdad in April 2003 did not signal the end of the Iraq war; likewise, the capture of Tripoli by anti-Qaddafi forces in August 2011 didn’t end the fighting there. I worry, too, that just as the capture of Saddam Hussein in December 2003 didn’t end the Iraq War that pro-Qaddafi forces will continue to resist the new government there.
The news of his death is difficult to write about because it strikes me as not very important. I would only add to Preble’s comments by suggesting that the tacit understanding that the US decision to oust Gadhafi implicates the US in the reconstruction and governance of Libya was probably intended. The evidence suggesting Obama’s decision to intervene was a strategic decision based on a desired future role in the region abounds. Libya is an oil rich country in a strategically important region and having a dominating influence over the country, especially since it neighbors an Egypt in transition, is probably seen as a net positive by national security planners.
We should expect continued fighting and a profound struggle (to put it gently) for the NTC to actually secure power and operate a functioning government. But further down the line, if Libya at all goes the way Washington prefers, we should expect hundreds of millions of dollars in US aid going directly to the future “government” of Libya, a significant and constant flow of American-made weaponry as well, and a close relationship with US diplomats that is defined largely by being subservient to US interests (in return for the aforementioned booty).
Update: I should add that it is likely the forthcoming relationship between the US and Libya will be seen as unfavorable, to say the least, by Libyans and by the Arab world generally. Libya could very well come in to fill slot #3 – after Bahrain and Yemen – of countries which blatantly betray flowery US rhetoric about democracy and human rights in the region.
On an unrelated note, Gadhafi’s last words were reportedly “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!” Then…they shot him.