Thursday, April 14, 2011

Libyan Lessons

For some time now I have been following with interest the events in Libya as ruler Moammar Gadhafi tries to hang on to power. Rebel forces propped up by NATO are trying to oust Gadhafi and those loyal to him in what has become a protracted civil war. Depending on the success of the rebel uprising and the prospect of so-called regime change, Gadhafi and his family will try to cut a deal that will allow them to retain control over their wealth and find refuge in another country where they will not be held responsible for their actions while in control of Libya. If that takes place he will try to trade the end of military action and the establishment of peace under a new government for safe passage out of the country and immunity from prosecution. The real question, however, is whether such an exchange should be allowed.

A Gadhafi-free Libya seems inevitable. No dictator retains power forever. They merely impose their wills on the people until the frustration of the populace reaches a boiling point at which time they are swept from office. While they may enjoy the adulation of the adoring crowd for a time, history will refuse to give them the honor they crave and once people are free from the bully-factor everyone will wonder how such persons ruled for so long and why they were so feared. Regime change will come to Libya sooner or later. Gadhafi's time at the top will soon be over. Libya will have to rebuild and reorganize itself and hopefully with the help of other nations it will move forward and enjoy a time of peace and prosperity.

But that still does not solve the problem of what to do with the Gadhafi's of the world once they have been driven from office. Should they be allowed to live out their days in a faraway place enjoying their wealth? Or should they be brought to trial and required to answer the charges brought against them? These questions could also be asked of all political and business leaders who have managed to enrich themselves by abusing positions of power and influence. Sometimes these prosecutions are so messy and threaten to incriminate so many people that it is easier to send known offenders off into exile. But in the long run this kind of pragmatism solves little and leaves untouched a desire for justice that will continue to fester long after the offending person has been forgotten.

Peace versus justice. The issues surrounding them are often complex. But they are worth thinking about in a world like ours.

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