Libyan accords: a victory for diplomacy
Publicado en Global Beat Syndicate. Se edita con autorización
January 26, 2004 © New York University. All Rights Reserved.
By Ronald Bruce St John
Global Beat Syndicate
DUNLAP, Ill.- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi recently took
three giant steps on the road to rejoining the international community
of states. This seismic shift in Libyan policy represents a big
win for a commodity in short supply these days-old-fashioned, quiet
In September 2003, Libyan officials agreed to pay $2.7 billion
in compensation to the survivors of the Pan Am 103 bombing over
Lockerbee, Scotland. In December, Libya renounced its unconventional
weapons programs, agreeing to international inspections to verify
compliance. And earlier this month, it cleared one of the last hurdles
in its campaign to shed its "rogue state" status, reaching
a settlement in the 1989 bombing of a French airliner over Africa.
Three-way talks between the U.S., British and Libyan officials
began in London over two years ago, just weeks after the 9-11 attacks.
In a series of meetings orchestrated by British officials, Libya
provided detailed intelligence on dozens of Islamist extremists,
including al-Qaeda members. It also pledged to abandon its weapons
of mass destruction programs as part of a deal to end its isolation
and pariah state status.
In reality, Gadhafi has been trying to come in from the cold for
almost a decade, culminating in WMD talks before the invasion of
Iraq and with an agreement before the capture of Saddam Hussein.
U.S. policy in Iraq may have influenced Libyan behavior, but seems
in retrospect to have been a secondary consideration, at best.
Nonetheless, the Bush administration has portrayed Libya's decision
to renounce unconventional weapons as a product of the Iraq war,
distorting success instead of building on it. Looking for a foreign
policy "win," the White House has hyped the Libyan decision
as a vindication of the Bush Doctrine of pre-emption.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, it could be argued
that the bellicose policies of the Bush administration delayed,
as opposed to accelerated, Libya's decision to come clean on WMD
development. The Gadhafi regime has had trouble getting the attention
of the Bush administration because its conciliatory message did
not fit the White House's rogue regime model.
The Libyan experience, like the war in Iraq, has displayed the
limits of U.S. intelligence. The doctrine of pre-emptive action
relies heavily on reliable intelligence that a future threat exists.
But in both Iraq and Libya, U.S. intelligence was unable to provide
the kind of accurate information needed to make good decisions,
absent an obvious, imminent threat. With Libya, years of sanctions,
plus comprehensive travel restrictions, left U.S. policy makers
largely ignorant about the country.
The White House has also erred in exaggerating the Libyan threat,
suggesting it was dangerous and imminent. Mohammed ElBaradei, head
of the International Atomic Energy Agency, visited Libya at the
end of December, and in his preliminary report he suggested the
Libyan nuclear program was only in an initial stage, an estimate
quickly dismissed by senior Bush administration officials. In an
apparent fit of pique, the White House responded to the report by
insisting that American and British representatives, not the IAEA,
oversee the dismantlement of Libya's nuclear program.
It may be time for the United States to make peace with the IAEA,
the United Nations and other international bodies. The IAEA oversees
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which Washington depends on
to identify and isolate rogue regimes.
Libyan WMD programs, in any case, will likely prove more rhetoric
than fact. Libya's nuclear program appears in the embryonic stage,
as does its biological weapons program. Its chemical weapons program
is more advanced, but appears to represent a minimal threat to anyone
except its own citizens.
Libya and the United States must now follow through with promises
made if the WMD agreement is to come to fruition. For Libya, this
means full disclosure of all its WMD materials, equipment and programs.
And for the United States to retain credibility, we must respond
with reciprocal steps, gradually lifting our sanctions regime and
restoring diplomatic relations. The recent White House decision
to establish immediately a diplomatic mission in Tripoli, the first
since May 1980, is the right first step.
ABOUT THE WRITER
Ronald Bruce St John, an analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, has
published widely on Middle Eastern issues. His latest book on the
region is "Libya and the United States: Two Centuries of Strife"
(Penn Press, 2002).
© 2000 New York University. All Rights Reserved. The Global
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