The implications of the fall of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi will reach far beyond Libya. As the Arab Spring rages on across the Middle East, Gaddafi’s death is sending shock waves across the world. While even the consequences for Libya itself remain unclear, many believe that this could mark a vital milestone in the uprising across the region. Will the death of the longest standing dictator be a precursor to the demise of other tyrants, or is the jubilation surrounding his collapse masking deeper problems with the whole movement?
A clear message. Bruce Reidel at The Daily Beast said the message to other Middle East dictators was clear: “Run!” He declared that dictators “from Algiers to Yemen” should be nervous, as the Libyan success could give heart to other rebels. The Syrian, Yemeni, Bahraini and Algerian leaders are all at risk, he said.
“For those despots still clinging to power in the region… the bloodied corpse of Gaddafi should serve as a chilling incentive to political reform”, warned a The Daily Telegraph editorial.
Who’s next? “The rat of Libya has been caught, next is the germ of Syria”, read a placard in Syria, reported Reuters. Richard Spencer, writing for The Daily Telegraph, said that Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad will be next, according to Syrians. Amr al-Azm, an exiled Syrian, said, “If I were a member of the regime, Bashar or (his brother) Maher, I would start to feel rather concerned. These dictators who won’t hand over power, this is how they seem to end up.” Jennifer Rubin of The Washington Post agreed that Gaddafi’s death could help bring down al-Assad: “Each time the blood-soaked hands of a despot are immobilized (by death or capture), it gives hope to other people fighting their own brutal regimes.”
Arab Spring’s principles affirmed. Gaddafi’s killing, above all, affirms the Arab Spring’s principles, declared the Christian Science Monitor’s editorial. “To sustain the ongoing Arab revolutions, principles matter”, and this landmark, combined with the upcoming Tunisian elections, shows that freedom is being achieved, one “principled step” at a time.
A template for action. US President Barack Obama hailed the removal of Libya’s “dark shadow of tyranny.” Obama spoke of the inevitable end to the “iron fist” rule of the Middle East, and The Guardian’s Ewen MacAskill wrote that this was targeted at al-Assad. He wondered if this course of action, a coordinated Nato operation, could now act as a template for further involvement in the Arab uprising, after vice-president Joe Biden called the military model a “prescription” for future endeavours.
Step back from the euphoria. Hugo Rifkind had a less ecstatic response to Gaddafi’s death, offering a “reality check” on the Arab Spring, in The Times (£). He pointed to the various imperfections in the uprising and situation, from the Egyptian elections happening “under the watchful eye of a military regime that throws people in jail for calling it dictatorial” to the Tunisian elections on the verge of being won by the Islamist party, who we’ve been so worried about for decades. “Democracy is a craft, not a talent; it takes practice”, he proposed. We mustn’t fool ourselves into believing that the Arab Spring is a perfect revolution heading for simple solutions, he said. “It’s not spring any more, and I think we’re kidding ourselves if we think that it’s about to be summer. I reckon they’ve got a pretty nasty winter to get through first.”
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