1.a. To supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity; make able
b. To make feasible or possible
2. To give legal power, capacity, or sanction to
3. To make operational; activate
And some even go as far as matching the psychological meaning of "enabler":
A family member, friend, co-worker, cleric or other person who, by being deeply concerned for the well-being of a substance abuser, facilitates the person's continued abuse by attempting to help the abuser–eg.: shouldering responsibility, making excuses for him or her, in fact encourages continued alcoholic or substance-abusing behavior.
What is happening in Libya today (or Venezuela for that matter) is yet another text book case of "enabling" in all of the senses above. As a dual citizen I must start by blaming France as one of the main enablers of hard core repressive regimes, whether the president comes from Socialist ranks or the Gaullist ones. The coddling of Mitterrand to many an African Dictator is known as much as Sarkozy's entreaties to Libya's Qaddafi once he threw a few million to clean up his act such as paying off a few of the victims of the planes he had shot down. Was Qaddafi not allowed to plant his Bedouin tent on the Champs Elysees?
It is not only in Libya, as we can discuss at will what on earth (besides the obvious economic gains) pushed France's Alcatel to sell Venezuela a submarine cable that links Cuba to Venezuela, Cuba a country where Internet is censored and where the average citizen cannot afford a cell phone?. The note I mention indicates that Internet speed in Cuba will be increased by three thousand. So, does that mean that Yoani Sanchez will be able to blog at ease? Who are we kidding here? The French are allowing Cuba to connect fast to Venezuela so political and police control can be done straight from Cuba much more efficiently than inside Venezuela. Can possibly Alcatel, the French ambassador attending the opening, the French strategic agencies be so oblivious of what is the real reason for such a cable? To bypass any Western Satellite that could intercept messages between the two repressive regimes, and thus repress better, control better the citizens.
Of course France is not alone and we must include as two major offenders the UK and Italy where Tony Blair and Silvio Berlusconi go hand in hand redeeming Qaddafi once this one allowed them to control part of his oil and buy from them a whole bunch of weapons in spite of his notable terrorist past.
Maybe the US has not been such an enabler of Qaddafi: at least we must recognize that they tried to bomb kill him once. But the PanAm airline was a US airline jet shot over Lockerbie and it is damaging that the rapprochement was started under Bush junior just as on the other hand he bombed Iraq who certainly did not do anything worse than Libya did as far as sponsoring terrorism (I leave outside the Kuwait invasion because Qaddafi never had the army to invade anyone otherwise I am certain he would have done so long ago).
However in the case of Venezuela and Chavez the US stands right there as an enabler together with Brazil. The career of Chavez would have never reached the current stage if the US's Bush and Brazil's Lula had not been so eager to provide him with all sorts of food items so that he could enslave quite a portion of the country through food distribution systems, while buying oil and paying cash. We had to wait for Obama to hear the White House actively encourage buying less oil from Venezuela.
You may argue whatever you want but Brazilian and US companies knew very well that they were screwing Venezuelan local production and that Chavez was using that for political purposes, though we must admit that concerns like Cargill or Sadia did not brag about it. It is true that Chavez could have found food elsewhere but only the US and Brazil could provide him with the amounts he needed. Was it that difficult for Lula to demand some political concessions in exchange of cheap food or political support elsewhere? It was in fact a perfect enabling triangle: Venezuela sold oil tot he US so it could attack safely Iraq; the US sold equipment to Brazil so its industrialization could advance fast; and Brazil sold cheap food to Venezuela so the oil we sold to the US ended up in Venezuelans toilets. Literally.
Maybe we could discuss here, if you must, what is the real drug: power or oil; and thus maybe question who is the real enabler. But in the psychological sense the enabler and enabled work together and eventually become one.
It remains that if people like Chavez and Qaddafi have gone as far as they have it is because too many countries abdicated their responsibility and chose to look elsewhere as long as they could get something out of the relationship. And when such countries are so lenient, so "pretend" that all is not that bad, then the enabled of the world can unite to help each other better in their vices as Chavez and Qaddafi did. Now Europe is getting ready to pay the price of abetting so many Arab dictatorships, just as soon enough Brazil and the US will pay for their neglect of Venezuela, once upon a time the beacon of democracy in Latin America.
PS: Interestingly both Qaddafi and Chavez with their puffed and distorted faces might indicate that there are also drug enablers in their entourage, which certainly explain the terrible end of Qaddafi and allows us to predict a terrible end for chavismo.