Tuesday, June 07, 2011

When the rules have changed

In today's Washington Post, Jackson Diehl argues that the International Criminal Court's role in Libya has not been helpful as it gives Gaddafi an incentive to keep fighting. It is an argument that I have made too.

I want to add one point: we should acknowledge that times have changed. Gaddafi is just one of many dictators in his part of the world. And many of his colleagues would be just as ready to kill protesters when they found it ready. As I have argued before - Ben Ali and Mubarak were geriatric old men who were overwhelmed by the protests. Had they been younger and more energetic they would most likely have put up more of a fight before giving up power. Dictators are ruler and judge in one and if they see a threat to stability they have good reason to lock up or even kill someone - all for the sake of stability and progress. That is the ideology that underlies their rule.

From this point of view is simply doesn't make sense to tell Gaddafi that suddenly he is a criminal just for doing what he has done the last 40 years. It makes better sense to tell him that times have changed and that now the time has a arrived for a more democratic and open style of government. He should leave but we don't blame him for what he has done with the best intentions. Those intentions are of course an assumption that we can adopt until proven otherwise.

This is not just about Gaddafi and his family. Hundreds of thousands of Libyans have supported him. By telling that Gaddafi is a criminal we are also telling those people that they are criminals. Doing that we make them to enemies of the new order while we did have a good chance to get them on our side. It is no coincidence that violent transitions lead to long term problems. We are now more than two centuries past the French revolution and there is still some antagonism between church and state left. Those Western bombers may very well be laying the foundation for similar problems between Libya's tribes.

No comments: