Gaddafi: He deserved it

October 24th, 2011

zelnick_bobThe following opinion piece was written by journalism professor Robert Zelnick, a Hoover Institute fellow and a former ABC News Middle East correspondent.





Muammar Gaddafi deserved to die.

He earned the sentence in the early 1970s when he stalked and killed Americans and other Westerners in Europe, apparently in the belief that it would drive them to retreat. He also deserved to die when we learned that it was his agents who planted explosives aboard a crowded Pan-Am passenger flight killing all aboard and several residents of Lockerbie, Scotland, below.

Meantime, a careful pruning of the Gaddafi rule in Libya would probably produce other crimes worthy of execution. But the Western assault on today’s Gaddafi’s rule, culminating with his death at Sirte, finds tough justification by anyone dedicated to a rational foreign policy.

The Gaddafi who died was a man chastened by past isolation, opposed to Islamic dictatorship and ready, willing, and able to adhere to restraints on his development of weapons of mass destruction. He was, in short, no threat to any valid Western interest.

Then why was he attacked?

The reasons offered by government apologists are threefold. First, he had been unusually explicit in threatening retaliation against those fellow countrymen who rose up against his regime. Second, the exercise furnished NATO with the opportunity to demonstrate its military progress in a situation where the role of the United States was modest. Third, we apparently had the unanimous, or near unanimous, support of the Arab League, a rarity in U.S. diplomacy.

All this, in my view, does not add up to a causis belli. We ought not to be removing chiefs of state willy nilly. We ought not to put ourselves in the position of telling public lies – that we were merely establishing no fly zones, or that we were merely protecting civilians and took no interest in the outcome of the fighting.

So, while it’s nice to see the West win a war now and then, one wishes it could have picked one that really engaged our national interests. Wars are serious business. Simply because a war has proved winnable offers little grounds for celebration.


Contact Zelnick at 617-353-5007;

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