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Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Cloud of Tragedy and Uncertainty


As the Middle East and North Africa erupt in violence, people around the World are watching carefully.  It's interesting to see a dictatorship overthrown in hopes that a new democratic government representing the people will emerge.  But history shows us that it is not always a democratic and free government that will arise from such turbulence.  Still, hope springs eternal even under such a cloud of tragedy and uncertainty.

Some people decry the slow action of the international community, but citizens must be evacuated and international connections must be maintained during the process.  In the case of Libya, this has been a time consuming process fraught with great difficulty and complexity.  There is only so much capacity to move aircraft in and out of Tripoli or ships in and out of Libyan ports.  This logistical nightmare is complicated by the need to contact and arrange the movement and extraction of citizens.  Now, however, most of the expatriates are finally out of Libya, clearing the way for intervention.

The United Nations, the Arab League and the African Union have all completed the required bureaucratic processes necessary to move towards deployment of an international force against the Libyan dictator.  Mr. Gaddafi has nowhere to go and there shall be no moving funds in and out of other nations, there will be no billions to siphon off from Swiss banks.  There are no crazed dictators left in the World foolish enough to take Gaddafi in as a permanent house guest.

The United Nations General Secretary will speak with President Obama on Monday, the nations of the World are shutting down their embassies and consulates.  It is eminently clear to the international community that Muammar Gaddafi is mentally unstable.  A sociopathic belief that history will record him as a martyr could be the only solace Muammar Gaddafi has left.  Such a person would be entirely likely to take down as many people as he can in the pursuit of imagined glory and martyrdom.

To attain this martyrdom, Muammar Gaddafi has an impressive inventory at hand including Kalashnikov assault rifles, light anti-tank weapons, grenades, tanks, and even chemical weapons like mustard gas.  If Gaddafi tries to use such weapons, we can only hope that those who would be asked to deploy them would become the final defectors from the Gaddafi regime.

None of us can predict how this will end, only that it will stand as a tragedy.  But out of this tragedy we can hope that freedom and liberty will emerge in a country where oppression has been a thick cloud that has not lifted for decades.

I should note that I am not without personal feelings toward Muammar Gaddafi.  I went to university in London with the students of Syracuse University who died in Muammar Gaddafi's bombing of PanAm flight 103.  My friends were sent hurtling to their death from 30,000 feet, their lives ended in sheer terror and intense pain.  The lives of innocent people in Lockerbie, Scotland ended when the flaming wreckage of PanAm 103 landed upon their small town as they slept in their beds.  I have never forgotten who was responsible for their deaths.

There is one overarching consideration that must guide our faith as we move into the future.  We believe that democracy is good, and that people ought to be able to rule themselves.  Nobody should have to live with the fears that Libyans have endured for so many decades under Gaddafi.

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