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The Flag of Libya

Speaking of the devil, one just died after being pulled out of a sewage pipe.

Muammar Gaddafi was a tyrant in whose eyes all was fair in the pursuit and perpetuation of power.  For him, “the end justifie[d] the means.”  So the term “Machiavellian” is a valid description of the manner in which Gaddafi or Gadhafi ruled.

When such dictators are captured or die, the first image that comes to my mind is that of a mother cradling her new-born child.  Gaddafi was once a baby.  I doubt that one is born a tyrant.  In fact, must of us cannot even imagine ruling ruthlessly. We even respect our pets.  They are sheltered, fed and they participate in the activities of their family.

So what happened?  What made this man a killer?  I have no good answer to such a question.  However, it may be that he wanted power, but not just the power to represent and serve a collectivity, but absolute power that legitimized crimes against humanity.

Those among us who live in democracies elect leaders, but the power that is conferred upon our leaders is not to be used in a self-serving fashion or to oppress the people.  Our leaders are elected to serve the nation as well as possible and under circumstances that may limit their ability to serve.  Besides, they have advisers and an opposition.

Ironically, even Louis XIV had advisors.  Beginning in medieval France, there was a “Curia Regis,” States General, Parlements, various Conseils (King’s Council), which, under Louis XIV was merely a “conseil d’en-haut” (“from above” because they lived upstairs in Versailles), or a small Privy Council

But, interestingly, when Louis XIV was a child, those who wanted to “storm the Bastille,” so to speak, were not the poor so much as the once powerful aristocrats who had been rendered powerless, as absolutism grew under Richelieu and, later, under Mazarin and Louis XIV himself. Louis XIV remembered the Fronde (1650-1653).  So his most important civil servant was Colbert, a bourgeois.  Colbert was Minister of Finance and Secretary of State.

But let us return our current concern, Libya’s future.  Libya requires immediate assistance in looking after its wounded.  It needs medical help.  But it may also need help putting a democratic government into place.  At the moment, another dictator could perceive Libya as an easy prey. However, would-be usurpers should know that Libya is not up for grabs.

Libya will be helped by several nations, including the US, except that the US seems to have placed itself “in the wings.”  Since 2008, one can sense greater détente between the Middle East and the US, as well as greater respect for the US and from the US towards Middle-East countries.

I cannot help thinking of Steve Jobs’s legacy and that of other creative minds.  Their gadgets allowed the world to watch Libya and, using the same gadgets, Libya allowed the world to be a witness to its struggle.  It’s a new world.

It would be reasonable to presume that what Libyans want most, at the moment, is to cast their ballot in a properly-conducted election and never again to be defenseless.  That may seem insufficient, but there is a sense in which one cannot possess greater power.

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