The death of Muammar Qaddafi was made possible when his last supporters, the civilians of Sirte, fled the city. Freedom for Arabs comes in small steps for freedom – such as Sunday's elections in Tunisia.
They voted with their feet.
And in doing so, they helped to force Mr. Qaddafi to flee his final stronghold into the hands of fighters for a Libyan democracy.
Such freedom to choose or reject one’s leaders remains the essence of the Arab awakening. That point was made not only in Libya again on Thursday, but it will also be on display Sunday in Tunisia, one of Libya’s neighbors. Tunisians – who ignited the Arab Spring nine months ago – will hold the first free, multiparty elections since the regional uprising began.
To sustain the ongoing Arab revolutions, principles matter. Many of Sirte’s civilians were simply fleeing the battle over their city, but both Libya’s transitional government and NATO went out of their way to hold their fire and set up a siege that would allow the people to leave. That strategic patience, driven by a reverence for life, was in stark contrast to Qaddafi’s threat in March to strike the rebel-held city of Benghazi – a threat that justified NATO’s military intervention.