Muammar Qaddafi is one of the worst rulers in history who left behind areas destroyed across the world - not in Libya alone. His memory must teach the international community an important lesson that bad rulers are not only a source of harm for their countries but also for the entire world. There was once Saddam Hussein who committed many tragedies. Now there is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. We must not also forget Tehran’s regime which squandered its country’s capabilities and affected the world since the Iranian revolution.
New regimes disputed by local parties are currently being formed in the region. It’s normal to worry about the nature of orientations these regimes will adopt, the institutions they will build and the ideas they will plant. So will another Qaddafi replace Muammar Qaddafi? Will a group or a president rule Syria in a manner similar to the Assad family? The same question can be asked about the future of Iran which will inevitably follow Libya and Syria’s path in the upcoming years.
All these examples led to horrible consequences. They impoverished countries, sabotaged the region and threatened the world.
For 40 years, Qaddafi financed chaos everywhere. His evil acts reached the Philippines, Ireland, Italy and Spain. He destroyed Chad to topple its regime, and he caused and financed chaos with arms and funds in the west and south of Sudan for decades. He also financed some parties during the civil war in Lebanon. In the past 10 years, he financed Yemeni Houthis and Yemeni tribal powers against Saudi Arabia. During these 10 years, he left his country in ruins without a glimpse of hope for its people in the future.
This is what Saddam did but on a narrower and more focused range. He empowered his army and security forces and engaged in a war with his neighbor Iran and later with Kuwait.
Hafez al-Assad kept Lebanon busy with struggles during the time he controlled large parts of it. He financed and trained armed parties against Turkey, Iraq and the Gulf. His son, Bashar, followed in his footsteps. He allied with Iran and played the role of a contractor of civil and sectarian wars in Iraq for a period of 10 years for the sake of controlling it like he did in Lebanon.
All three men played roles in sabotaging the Palestinian cause, dividing the Palestinians and hiring armed groups led by men like Abu Nidal and Ahmad Jibril. In the name of Palestine, they destroyed the Palestinian cause and led the Arab world towards destruction.
Now, these violent men are gone. Bashar al-Assad will go as well regardless of how long the battle will be. The Arab world is changing. We do not know for how long it will continue to change or what the final result will be, but we hope that the Libyans do not inherit “another Qaddafi” and that the Iraqis do not inherit “a new Saddam” although the manifestations of the current governance warn of this. We also hope that Syria does not give birth to a savage, iron-handed regime like Assad’s.
The democratic system which these new countries say they will establish is based on resorting to the people. If asked, the international community as well as the majority of Libyans, Iraqis and Syrians will reject returning to these dreadful eras. Therefore, it is everyone’s responsibility to push the communities which revolted against their regimes and toppled them towards civil governance that believes in political participation and meets the citizens’ aspirations.
Saddam, Qaddafi and Assad, besides their evil tendencies and paranoia, had also adopted the policy of internal destruction in order to distract their communities by inventing enemies beyond their borders or fake heroism. Building institutions that respect people’s desires will not be easily achieved. This is where the role of the international community comes in, as it must aid these revolutionary communities in this transitional phase instead of observing them.
The presence of regimes that respect citizens and international laws is in the interest of the entire world not only in the interest of the Libyans, Iraqis or Syrians. Getting rid of Hitler’s regime in 1945 put an end to its crimes. But the most important aspect is that the winners’ insistence to build democratic institutions in Germany and Japan achieved calm, peace and prosperity in the EU and the world. Therefore, toppling wicked regimes will not be enough to prevent the history of 40bad years from repeating itself. Contributing to supporting societies in structuring systems that commit to laws on local and foreign levels will yield the results seen by the experience of these Western European countries.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on Feb. 20, 2013
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today.