While experts in Central Kentucky describe bright possibilities for Libya in the wake of Moammar Gadhafi's death, they also see a great deal of uncertainty for the country's future and the impact it will have on Northern Africa and the Middle East.
"This is really only the beginning of what's taking place, not only in Libya but also around the region," said Paul Chamberlin, a history professor at the University of Kentucky. "If the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan showed us anything, it's a lot easier to topple a regime than it is to build a new one."
Chamberlin said it will take Libya months — "very likely years" — to stabilize and re-create itself.
Carey Cavanaugh, director of the Patterson School of Diplomacy at UK, agrees.
"No one can know how smooth the transition is going to be ... The jury is still out on how quickly these regimes, these states, can move forward along a democratic path," Cavanaugh said. "But I think they have already shown by their actions that there is a greater thirst for democracy and freedom in these countries than people outside these countries had acknowledged."
Despite the uncertainty, the world is safer without Gadhafi, Cavanaugh said.
"I think it's never right to want to celebrate the death of a human being, but it's certainly true in this case that here's an individual in Libya who ruled with an iron hand," he said. "He was known to support terrorist activity ... The world has lost a person who will not be missed by many."
Cavanaugh spent 22 years working for the U.S. Foreign Service as a special negotiator of Eurasian conflicts. He worked as an ambassador of peace for U.S. negotiations. Cavanaugh witnessed some of the devastation Gadhafi caused during one of his first assignments. He was in Berlin when a nightclub was bombed in 1986.
The blast killed two U.S. servicemen and a Turkish woman. Two hundred twenty-nine people were wounded, 79 of whom were Americans. Gadhafi was later determined to have been behind the attack.
"One of the first things I had to do was deal with victims of the Berlin discotheque terrorist attack," Cavanaugh said." I had to call their parents and tell them that their children had died. I had to visit the victims in hospitals who'd lost limbs. That image is with me forever of Moammar Gadhafi and what he was capable of doing."
Cavanaugh sees the death of Gadhafi as a good sign for democratic possibilities in Libya. Many feared that while Gadhafi was alive and free, he'd be able to hamper democratic reform in the country. People worried that he would always retain an informal power in the country, he said.
But Cavanaugh also worries about Libya. Many Libyans, he said, have never known a Libya without Gadhafi.
"It's going to be hard because the people of Libya have lived for so long under a tyrant," he said.
Chamberlin said he hopes Libya will look to Egypt as a model for a democracy in the region. He said that historically Egypt has played a large role in the region's psyche.
Both Chamberlin and Cavanaugh said the situation could allow the United States to build new relationships in a part of the world that has been seen as perpetually at odds with America.
"I think this is really a tremendous opportunity for the United States and the Obama administration to revamp the United States' image in the region," Chamberlin said. "These new regimes are going to be watching the United States very closely. In that part of the world, it could be seen as a litmus test — how serious is the United States about turning over a new leaf in the region?"