Moral right

Colonel Gaddafi (picture Antônio Milena/Agência Brasil)

Former head of the army, Lord Dannatt, says to the BBC that:

“If we thought that Gaddafi had lost the moral right to rule this country a month ago, he has lost it in the last 24 hours, that’s for sure.”

But when did Colonel Gaddafi ever have the moral right to rule Libya?  He came to power through a military coup, deposing the previous ruler (also not elected) while the latter was out of the country for medical treatment.  Since then, he has invaded one neighbour after another, he has blown up civilian airliners and assassinated his opponents in exile around the world, and he has oppressed and abused Libyans for years.  Click here for what Freedom House has to say about his regime.

There are many countries in the world whose governments are in power through force rather than consent.  We may not like it but a sense of realism forces us to live with it, in most circumstances.  That is what diplomacy is for, to enable democracies to deal with such countries without compromising their own sense of democracy.  However, dealing with autocratic governments does not mean extending to them any kind of recognition as possessing moral authority.

Colonel Gaddafi has not lost the moral right to govern: he never had it.

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