It’s Not Enough to Topple Dictators
The world has seen many terrible rulers, and last week we celebrated the revolution that toppled one of the worst rulers from power, Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan dictator was responsible for huge devastation and destruction, and not just in Libya. The memory of Gaddafi must serve as an important lesson to the international community that bad rulers do not just harm their own countries, but also the wider world. We have seen this with Saddam Hussein, who was responsible for many crimes and tragedies. While today we are seeing Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad following the same path. We must also not forget the Tehran regime, which has squandered the country’s wealth and been harming the world at large since the Iranian revolution.
Today, the region is characterized by new regimes which are being confronted by local forces. It is natural to worry about what political approach these regimes will adopt, what kind of institutes they will create, and what ideas they will seek to sow. Will Libya see the rise of another Gaddafi? Will Syria, in the future, be ruled by a new group or president that will follow the same approach of Hafez Al-Assad, and later Bashar? The same questions can be asked about the future of Iran, which will no doubt follow the path as Libya and Syrian in the forthcoming years.
All these examples led to terrible consequences, impoverishing the countries, sabotaging the region, and threatening the world.
For 40 years, Gaddafi sowed international chaos. His evil actions reached the Philippines, Ireland, Italy and Spain. He destroyed Chad and toppled the ruling regime there, while he also financed chaos, materially and with arms, in western and southern Sudan for decades. Gaddafi also funded certain parties in the Lebanese civil war. As for the past decade, he financed the Yemeni Houthi rebels and tribal powers against Saudi Arabia. During these 10 years, he left his own country in ruins, failing to support any development. During this period, the people of Libya had no glimmer of hope for the future.
This is precisely what Saddam Hussein did, albeit in a more narrow and focused manner. He empowered his army and security forces and engaged in a war with neighbouring Iran and Kuwait.
As for Hafez Al-Assad, he preoccupied Lebanon with conflict and struggles. He financed and trained armed groups against Turkey, Iraq and the Gulf. Bashar Al-Assad followed in his father’s footsteps. He allied with Iran and became a purveyor of civil and sectarian wars and terrorism in Iraq over a period of 10 years with the objective of controlling the country, in the same manner that he did Lebanon.
All of the above figures played a role 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, these leaders destroyed the Palestinian Cause and led the Arab world towards destruction.
Now, these symbols of destruction are gone, only Bashar Al-Assad remains and his ouster is assured, regardless of how long the battle may last. The Arab world is changing. We do not know for how long it will continue to change or what the final result will be. However our hope is that the Libyans do not inherit another Gaddafi, and the Iraqis do not witness the rise of a new Saddam Hussein, although the signs are not promising. We also hope that Syria does not see the rise of a new savage, iron-fisted regime like that of the Assad dynasty.
The democratic system which these new countries have sought to establish is based on placing the decision in the hands of the people. If we asked the Libyans, Iraqis, and Syrians, we would see that the majority do not wish to return to these dreadful eras, while the same goes for the international community. Therefore, it is everyone’s responsibility to push these societies that toppled their ruling regimes towards civil governance that includes political participation and meeting the aspirations of the people. Beside their evil tendencies and paranoia, Saddam, Gaddafi, and Assad also adopted the policy of external destruction in order to distract their societies, inventing fake enemies beyond their borders and fabricating heroes for the people to cheer for. It will not be easy to build institutes that respect the people’s wishes. This is where the international community comes in, as it must aid these revolutionary societies during this transitional phase rather than merely observing what is happening.
It is in the interests of the world at large, not just the Libyans, Iraqis, and Syrians, for these regimes to respect their citizens and international laws. Dismantling Hitler’s regime in 1945 put an end to the German dictator’s crimes. However the most important aspect of this was the Allied Forces insistence on building democratic institutions in Germany and Japan. This ensured calm, peace and prosperity in Europe and the world at large. Therefore, merely toppling evil regimes will not be enough to preventing history from repeating itself. Rather, we must see everybody contributing to supporting these societies to build regimes and systems that respect local and international laws. This will see the Western European experience—with all of its different dimensions and features—being repeated in these regional states.