We're not sure what comes next in Libya, or even if it will be better than what preceded it. What we are sure of, though, is that Moammar Gadhafi has met an end that he richly deserved.
Is anyone beyond family going to shed a tear for the clownish despot who brutalized Libya for 42 years?
It took six months of NATO-supported rebellion to topple Gadhafi's criminal government and another two months to track down the ousted dictator. It is thus the longest successful revolution to date in the "Arab Spring" that has overthrown governments in Tunisia and Egypt and precipitated other confrontations throughout the Middle East, particularly Syria, home to another vicious leader, Bashar al-Assad.
In one way or another, these governments have for decades courted the uprisings that have flourished across the region. Gadhafi was certainly brutal, though more than the others, he invited the Western air strikes that gave Libyan rebels the edge they needed.
His incitements to American involvement are too numerous to list, but they included the 1986 bombing of a Berlin disco that was frequented by American servicemen. That attack killed three people and injured 229. More diabolically, his regime was responsible for the 1988 destruction of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. The bombing killed 270 people, most of them Americans.
Why wouldn't this nation join the coalition helping the rebels to overthrow a criminal like that? Critics have said the United States should have played no role in the uprising and, instead, have left the rebels to be murdered by the man who already has American blood on his hands. Why, when we can safely help to remove him? President Obama had it right. Our role in the NATO effort was limited, appropriate and successful.
With its culmination, though, the question remains: What happens next in Libya and what impact will Gadhafi's end have in Syria?
The United States and other nations will have only limited ability to steer the direction of Libya, but there are steps we should take and, indeed, already are taking.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was in Libya only two days before Gadhafi's death, offering financial aid to the new government. That is our appropriate role, at least without an invitation to do more.
As to the other nations in the region, it is hard to imagine that Gadhafi's end will not bolster rebels in Syria and other nations, perhaps even including Iran.
We can only hope.