You reap what you sow, it is said, and many Libyans would argue that Ghaddafi's horrific end pales in comparison to the horrors he inflicted on thousands of Libyans during his ignominious rule. I understand the feeling and have no sympathy for Ghaddafi and yet the way he was killed and the macabre display of his body leaves me uneasy. As the Libyans rejoice in their liberation, they may think that the circumstances of Ghaddafi's death is only of concern for Western human rights organizations, but I disagree. Libya is supposed to be turning a new page not borrowing a page from the defunct Jamahiriya. If you let one extrajudicial killing slide, how many more will be ignored before it is too late, before the country slides into an orgy of revenge killings. The NTC should have owned up to what happened to Ghaddafi, quickly contained the fallout, imposed some discipline on the fighters in the field and moved on to the difficult tasks ahead.
The juxtaposition of the frantic, blood-soaked final days of the Libyan uprising to images of 90% of Tunisians going to the polls for their first free elections, couldn't have been more jarring and informative. Tunisia's ousting of their autocratic ruler was relatively peaceful and quick and their transition to democracy seems to be on track. Libya's road to freedom was long, violent and destructive and their road back to some semblance of normalcy will be even longer and more complicated.
These events leave me wondering about the future of the Syrian uprising. Without a critical mass openly joining the opposition or outside military intervention, it looks like we are in for a long simmering war of attrition between the government and the opposition. This will lead not only to more violence and loss of life but will also start to erode the social and economic fabric of Syrian society and disrupt normal day to day functioning of state and educational institutions. The longer this drags on the more difficult and fraught with danger the post-Bashar transition will be. So what is the solution if military intervention is not a palatable option to the majority of Syrians who oppose the regime?
Whereas Ghaddafi clearly would not have succumbed to political pressure, I believe that Bashar, despite his grandstanding, and with the appropriate screws tightened, would succumb to such pressure. This may be an especially opportune time to do so with the recent toppling of a similarly obstinate dictator. The trouble is that I do not see such political pressure forthcoming. The Arab League, with its predictable impotence, is unable to pressure the Syrian regime and the Western countries, not wanting to confront Russia and China are not pushing hard enough and are anyway distracted with their own economic crisis.