Why Qaddafi’s Death Is Significant

Content from the Brookings Doha Center is now archived. In September 2021, after 14 years of impactful partnership, Brookings and the Brookings Doha Center announced that they were ending their affiliation. The Brookings Doha Center is now the Middle East Council on Global Affairs, a separate public policy institution based in Qatar.

The death of Qaddafi will have implications on many levels. Firstly in terms of operations, and the future efforts to rebuild Libya, it will mean an end of the major military campaign in the north of the country—particularly after the fall of Sirte and Bani Walid. The morale of the remaining loyalists will likely crumble following the demise of their figurehead.

We might, however, now see an insurgency in the south, especially around the area of Sabha. The fact that Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi is still at large is of great significance. He has played an instrumental role in the loyalist campaign against the Transitional National Council forces, and may now take on a leadership role for the remaining insurgents. That said, the death of Qaddafi the father will give an important boost to the reconstruction process in Libya, as the opportunity for further disruptions to that process will diminish.

Also on the operational level, there will be important implications for NATO and its involvement in the ongoing efforts to secure the country. The death of Qaddafi raises questions about the continued validity operations under UN Security Council resolution 1973 which was designed to ensure the “protection of civilians.” It may soon be necessary to return to the UN for a new mandate.

Perhaps the greatest significance of the killing of Qaddafi is on the psychological level. It will provide closure for the millions of Libyans who have suffered under his rule, allowing them to move on and contribute to the rebuilding of their country. Beyond Libya itself, it will provide inspiration to those who have risked so much in rising up against their rulers—particularly in Syria and Yemen—showing that there is an end to the long road of revolution.