May 11, 2006


Rehabilitating a Rogue: Libya’s WMD Reversal and Lessons for US Policy (Dafna Hochman, Spring 2006, Parameters)

On 19 December 2003, Muammar al-Qadhafi announced Libya’s decision to dismantle all components of its nonconventional weapons programs. Concurrently, Qadhafi declared an abrupt halt to Libya’s development of missiles with a range exceeding 300 kilometers and his intent to open all nonconventional weapons stockpiles and research programs to international inspectors.1 Libya’s acknowledgment that it was building chemical and biological, as well as nuclear, weapons marked a dramatic shift; for decades, Tripoli had unequivocally denied the possession of any such weapons when faced with Western allegations to that effect. In fact, as recently as January 2003, Qadhafi told an American reporter that it was “crazy to think that Libya” had weapons of mass destruction (WMD).2 In a 2003 article directed at the US foreign policy community, Qadhafi’s son and likely successor, Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, underscored Libya’s continued compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) as well as the Biological Weapons Convention.3

Yet, with great confessional drama, Qadhafi now admitted to the international community that he had overseen the development of an active WMD program, with materials imported as recently as 2001. Thus, Qadhafi’s WMD reversal poses a puzzling question: Why would a rogue leader decide to eliminate a WMD program that he recently had been pursuing?

The international community, including President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, immediately lauded Qadhafi’s decision to seek rapprochement with the West.4 The Bush Administration and analysts outside the US government cited two principal reasons behind Qadhafi’s decision. First, they argued that the United States had sent a strong message by invading Iraq in 2003, proving its willingness to use military force to deal with rogue states acquiring WMD. Libya must have been watching, they contended. Second, many argued that economic sanctions had successfully suppressed the Libyan economy. With a growing population, and potential revenue from undeveloped oil resources, Qadhafi might have decided to prioritize Libya’s economic survival over WMD procurement.5

These two explanations, while plausible, have sidelined the role of deliberate, long-term US policies toward Libya that likely facilitated Qadhafi’s WMD reversal. Three additional factors affected Libya’s WMD reversal. First, in addition to the pressures exerted by the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, Qadhafi had reason to foresee greater security benefits to be gained by closer ties with the United States and the West. In particular, Libya’s concern about al Qaeda influenced its desire to ally with the United States. Second, while seeking an end to the stifling US and UN sanctions for economic motives, Qadhafi also sought to end Libya’s pariah status. Qadhafi’s concern about his own reputation and Libya’s international image and credibility motivated his decision. Third, the Pam Am 103 victims’ families and their advocates on Capitol Hill wielded agenda-setting influence, strengthening the negotiating position of the United States vis-à-vis Libya. Each of these factors reflects one of three US foreign policy approaches applied toward Libya over the past 15 years. Each factor also yields implications for current and future US national security strategies, offering prescriptive lessons to policymakers confronting rogue regimes acquiring WMD programs.

The author actually pinpoints the most likely cause of Libya's reform here:
Observers within the Bush Administration and experts in the private sector contended that Qadhafi finally acknowledged Libya’s plummeting economy and sought to realize Libya’s vast oil potential. Faced with a growing population and the failure of the state-run economy, Qadhafi recognized that the only solution to Libya’s poverty was to open up Libya to international trade and investment. Indeed, evidence does suggest that Qadhafi, or at least his top advisors, understood Libya’s predicament and chose to privilege economic interests over ideological or nationalist ones. Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam, a doctoral student at the London School of Economics, has been particularly vocal about the need for Libya to embrace global capital and abandon its long-standing socialist economic policies.

Which renders the main lesson: Westernize the next generation.

Kingdom to Privatize Bourse (Javid Hassan, 10 May 2006, Arab News)

A new financial district will be constructed over an area of three million square meters in the north of Riyadh, making it the biggest project of its kind in the world, Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf announced yesterday.

It was also announced that the Kingdom would go ahead with the privatization of the Saudi stock market as part of its economic reforms program designed to boost investment and create job opportunities.

Reading out the speech of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Al-Assaf said the King Abdullah Financial District would be the Middle East’s first financial district to match the major global trade zones.

Reform is best done from above.

Posted by Orrin Judd at May 11, 2006 10:03 AM

Qadhafi is smarter than his peers in South America.

Posted by: Gideon at May 11, 2006 11:10 AM

Didn't we get into this mess by 'westernizing' the Fathers? Hope we get it right this time. The Ivy league should be avoided at all cost.

Posted by: Robert Mitchell Jr. at May 11, 2006 1:52 PM

You can't trust a guy who doesn't even know how to spell his own name. And wears white gowns after Labor Day.

Mo gave it up because he knew his program was detailed in Saddam's files.

Posted by: Noel at May 11, 2006 11:18 PM

Noel. Great comment.

Posted by: erp at May 12, 2006 11:07 AM