if the libyan revolt fails, if somehow qadhafi comes out of this still in control of all or part of the country, his brutal response to the democracy protests will become the model that other arab leaders (and probably also leaders from beyond the arab world) will follow in the future.
so what is at stake in libya is more than just the issue of whether qadhafi's brutal rule is allowed to continue. what ultimately happens to him will also influence how future leaders facing such protests will react. if qadhafi falls and either dies or is hauled before a court for war crimes, then that will increase the chances that future leaders follow ben ali's path and resign and flee. if, on the other hand, qadhafi hangs on, his example and iran's similarly brutal response will stand as the best model for leaders who don't want to go.