Counting Chickens in Libya

libya soldeirs qaddafi gadhafi

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The media seems to be in full congratulatory mode.Joel Rubin of the Huffington Post trumpets “Obama’s Libya Leadership Vindicated” and gushes that “President Obama’s critics are on the verge of witnessing a third major Obama success in the Arab world in 2011.”  

The three triumphs he refers to are the glorious events surrounding our support condemnation of Mubarak, the demise of Bin Laden, and now the supposed end of Gaddafi.

Over at Politico, Alexander Burns has an article critical of the Republicans for not pushing to the front of the line to praise the President, and Ben Smith reports with great solemnity in his article “Libya Revolution: How “leading from behind” can work” that “The fall of Tripoli is a foreign policy triumph for which President Barack Obama won’t hold a ticker-tape parade: no flight suit, no chest-thumping, no “Mission Accomplished” banner.”

Why would he need to, when he’s got the likes of Ben, Joel and Alex to wave the banner for him?

By Tuesday, there will be dozens of such congratulatory articles and posts, and maybe they will all be deserved.

Maybe it will be shown that the administration’s steely resolve has rid the middle east of what everyone agrees was an evil mad hatter, and the Libyan people can emerge into the sunshine of a better life. One would hope so.

Couple of troubling issues, however.  As this is written, Gaddafi’s whereabouts are unknown. It had been reported on Saturday night that three of his sons had been captured by the rebels, but Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, made what seemed like a campaign victory appearance at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli, and his brother Mohammed Gaddafi was reported to have escaped Monday, according to the Libyan ambassador to the United States.

But let’s assume all this is just Baghdad Bob style propaganda, and the Gaddafii boys really will be introduced to their just rewards soon. Is this good news?

Maybe, maybe not.

There was a time when most observers applauded the fall of the Shah of Iran, who was another bad guy, but at least he was our bad guy.  The Shah was preferable to the rule and reign of Khomeini and the mullahs that followed and who will have to be taken down sooner or later.

Who are the Libyan rebels? Just as in Egypt, a country with far more structure and at least some experience with democratic tradition, there are reports that some are calling for an Islamic society based on Sharia law.  If that’s the end result, it might not lead to the best of all possible world.

Odds are, things could go either way.  Maybe the Arab spring will turn out to have been a good things and an important step towards a more tranquil Middle Eastern community.  Maybe it will turn out to to be the calm before the storm, and a new landscape of pain, threat and danger.

It might just be prudent to keep the champagne on ice, at least for a while.