Sorry about the crappy Photoshop job. Under the barrel is Vladimir Putin, so this works on two levels... Original photo: Wikipedia, CC.
A Vivid Reminder that Our Addiction to Oil Funds Dictators
Colonel Muammar Gaddafi doesn't have that many friends left around the world, but there's a dependable old ally that has been helping him and his thugs for decades and that has provided him with the resources to do most of the terrible things that he's done. The world's oil addiction - to use George W. Bush's words - is the best friend of the repressive regime because it insulates it from having to make compromises with the outside world and even with the local people.
Photo: Public domain
The Difference Between Libya, Egypt and Tunisia
I'm not saying that this is a big revelation. We've known for a long time that brutal madmen were kept in power by oil money, but there's a difference between knowing something in the abstract and having a very concrete example of it.
One way that this oil addiction is making a difference in the lives of millions can be seen when you compare Egypt & Tunisia to Libya. The first two aren't oil rich like Libya, so they needed to deal with the outside world and they can be pressured into moving in the right direction (not that much pressure had been applied in the past few decades, but that's another article altogether...). Libya's dictator, on the other hand, could amass billions just with oil. The regime doesn't care too much about tourism, trade deals, having a thriving local economy and job market, etc. Over the past few decades, as long as the oil flowed, the coffers were full and control could be maintained over the local citizens.
No Quick Fix, But Let's Move in the Right Direction
It took a long time to be this addicted to oil, and it'll take some time to get off of it. But it's our responsibility to oppressed people and future generations to make it happen as quickly and as smoothly as possible. Let's not wait until there's a big supply crunch to which we aren't prepared. Step by step or cold turkey, depending on the facts on the ground (it's going to be easier for some than others), but let's move!
For more, read about the Curse of Oil at Wikipedia.