May 16, 2006


How Gadhafi Lost His Groove: The complex surrender of Libya's WMD (Judith Miller,, 5/16/06)

How and why did Col. Gadhafi, the despotic, still dangerously capricious leader, decide to abandon a lifetime of revolution and terrorism and abandon the WMD programs he had pursued since seizing power in a coup in 1969? What role did American intelligence play in that decision? And how much change can Col. Gadhafi tolerate and still retain power?

Col. Gadhafi's hip, 34-year-old son, Saif-al-Islam, told me in Vienna--where he earned an M.B.A. and lives when he's not carrying out tasks for his father, or studying for a doctorate in political philosophy at the London School of Economics--that his father changed course because he had to. "Overnight we found ourselves in a different world," said Saif, referring to the Sept. 11 attacks. "So Libya had to redesign its policies to cope with these new realities."

But a review of confidential government records and interviews with current and former officials in London, Tripoli, Vienna and Washington suggest that other factors were involved. Prominent among them is a heretofore undisclosed intelligence coup--the administration's decision in late 2003 to give Libyan officials a compact disc containing intercepts of a conversation about Libya's nuclear weapons program between Libya's nuclear chief and A.Q. Khan--that reinforced Col. Gadhafi's decision to reverse course on WMD.

While analysts continue to debate his motivation, evidence suggests that a mix of intelligence, diplomacy and the use of force in Iraq helped persuade him that the weapons he had pursued since he came to power, and on which he had secretly spent $300 million ($100 million on nuclear equipment and material alone), made him more, not less, vulnerable. "The administration overstates Iraq, but its critics go too far in saying that force played no role," says Bruce W. Jentleson, a foreign-policy adviser to Al Gore in the 2000 presidential campaign and professor at Duke University, who has written the most detailed study of why Col. Gadhafi abandoned WMD: "It was force and diplomacy, not force or diplomacy that turned Gadhafi around . . . a combination of steel and a willingness to deal."

Americans are having a surprising amount of trouble dealing with the concept of an Administration that doesn't tell us every little thing.

Posted by David Cohen at May 16, 2006 10:01 AM

Honesty...the American way.

Posted by: sharon at May 16, 2006 10:12 AM

Proves two things:

Even a blind squirrel (intelligence community) can find a nut once in a while.

Col. Gadhafi is by far the smartest of the whole bunch of dictators.

Posted by: Rick T. at May 16, 2006 11:13 AM

So our Intell. agencies depend too heavily on technological intercepts and that's why the former NSA chief is an inappropriate nomination to the CIA?

Posted by: Genecis at May 16, 2006 12:18 PM

When I saw Judith Miller's name at the top of the page, I did a double-take. It was an interesting piece. I'll bet Jill Abramson is a bit green this evening.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 17, 2006 12:35 AM

Part 2 (today) was good as well.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 17, 2006 1:49 PM