Reports are flying around the interwebs that the last Gaddafy holdout of Sirte has fallen, and that Gaddafi has been killed -- Blake Hounshell has the grisly photo here. A few scattered thoughts on this:
1) This photo comes on top of numerous reports that Gaddafi was captured or wounded or whatnot. Given past NTC statements and reversals, I'd like to see further confirmaion. In the meantime, as I stated on Twitter this AM, I think we can clarify it this way: Gaddafi has been captured, Qaddafi has been killed, and Khadafy is still at large.*
Readers are invited to suggest the fates of other spellings of the Libyan dictator's name in the comments.
2) Assuming that Gaddafi really is dead, Adam Serwer tweets that how this came to pass "makes a huge difference." Well.... maybe. I suspect it won't matter all that much in Libya -- and to be cold-blooded about it, there are ways in which the spectacle of a capture and trial might have been more problematic. I'm not even sure that Gaddafi's fate affects the new Libyan regime's image and reputation overseas.
The more serious effect might be in how this kind of outcome affects the behavior of other autocrats. As Giacomo Chiozza and Hein Goemans observe in Leaders and International Conflict, the private incentives of leaders profoundly affect their use of force. Simply put, when leaders have expectations of a violent demise if they lose power, they have a more powerful incentive to use force to stay in power. So, congrats to Libya, but this is simply going to harden the hearts of Bashir Assad and others out there determined to stay in power through any means necessary -- including instigating cross-border conflicts.
3) At the risk of seeming like a grump, I'd prefer a situation in which the best news in world politics is something other than "[INSERT SCUMBAG'S NAME HERE] is dead!!" Because for the past six months, these kind of deaths have been the high points.
Don't get me wrong -- I'm not sorry bin Laden or Al-Awlaki or Gaddafi have departed the scene. This probably is addition by subtraction. I'd just like it if there were other sources of addition.
What do you think?
*I should probably stop tweeting right now and end on a high note.