Gaddafi died three years ago. Would Libya be better off if he hadn’t?

It’s certainly possible that if Gaddafi had faced trial, be it in the ICC or elsewhere, Libya may have had a chance at peace and reconciliation after the bloody end of his regime. It could have been a vital state-building exercise for a country that had existed for more than four decades under Gaddafi’s highly personalized, sometimes eccentric style of governance. Given the incredibly fractured nature of Libya today, some wonder whether a Gaddafi trial could have offered something to unite the disparate forces in the country. But it’s hard to say for sure, and other, less desirable outcomes were also possible.

“A high-profile trial in a post-conflict environment can be an opportunity for societal reckoning and healing,” Tamara Cofman Wittes, director and senior fellow at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings, says in an e-mail, “but can also just add to grievance and polarization, depending on the local context and also on how well the trial itself is handled.”…

“When Qaddafi died, Libya actually had, by the standards of most post-conflict states, pretty good chances of making a smooth transition to peace and stability,” Chivvis explains. “It had wealth, was near Europe, had neighbors who were headed in the same direction, and it’s people had not, unlike Bosnia, for example, fought against each other in internecine civil war.”

He adds, “This is what is so tragic about the situation today.”