In the Rose Garden this afternoon, President Barack Obama briefly responded to the news of Moammar Qaddafi’s death:
“This is a momentous day in the history of Libya,” the president said. “The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted and, with this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Qaddafi’s dictatorship.”
But the president acknowledged that Qaddafi’s death doesn’t mean Libyans will automatically have an easy go of it as they craft a democratic government to take the place of Qaddafi’s dictatorship.
“We’re under no illusions,” he said. “Libya will travel a long and winding road to full democracy; there will be difficult days ahead. But the United States, together with the international community, is committed to the Libyan people.”
He congratulated the Libyans: “You have won your revolution and now we will be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity.”
He also touched briefly on how the action in Libya fits into the broader happenings in the Middle East.
“For the region, today’s events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end,” he said.
Other international leaders reacted similarly to Qaddafi’s demise:
“Finally the way is free for a political rebirth for peace,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Thursday, pronouncing herself “relieved and very happy” at the news.
Britain and France, the powers that played a leading role in the military campaign that sealed Gadhafi’s fate, said they hoped that his death would open a new — and more democratic — chapter in Libya’s history.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Gadhafi’s death a milestone in the Libyan people’s battle “to free themselves from the dictatorial and violent regime that was imposed on them for more than 40 years,” a message echoed by British leader David Cameron and other NATO allies.
The Vatican said it now considers Libya’s interim government the legitimate rulers of the country. Gadhafi’s death ended a “long and tragic” fight to crush a “cruel and oppressive regime,” the Vatican press office said in a statement.
But in Congress, reactions were somewhat more mixed. While Qaddafi’s death was greeted as a welcome development, some Congressional leaders reiterated that the administration could have handled the Libyan intervention better:
[John] McCain said that fewer Libyans would have been wounded or killed during the months of fighting if the United States had intervened more aggressively.
“We led from behind,” he said. “We should have used the full weight of American air power.”
[Marco] Rubio also took Obama to task, saying that the British and the French deserve most of the credit for Gadhafi’s defeat.
“Today would have happened months ago” if the United States had acted sooner, he said.
Update (Allahpundit): The money line in The One’s speech is, of course, the bit about iron-fist rulers having to watch their back. The whole point of this adventure in Libya was to signal to the Arab Spring that we’ve learned our lesson about propping up their oppressors (except in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and Jordan) and are now on their side, to the point where we’ll even commit U.S. military assets to helping them overthrow the local monster (except in Syria and Yemen and Iran). This was a goodwill gesture, in other words, aimed mainly at impressing Egyptian democrats so that their inevitable turn towards the Muslim Brotherhood doesn’t result in a total loss of U.S. influence in the region. I sure hope it worked.
Just for fun, via the Examiner, here’s Hillary’s reaction upon receiving today’s news.