December 20, 2003


Two Decades of Sanctions, Isolation Wore Down Gaddafi (Robin Wright and Glenn Kessler, December 20, 2003, Washington Post)

Libya's stunning decision yesterday to surrender its weapons of mass destruction followed two decades of international isolation and some of the world's most punishing economic sanctions. In the end, Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gaddafi was under so much pressure that he was forced to seek an end to the economic and political isolation threatening his government -- and his own survival, according to U.S. and British officials and outside experts.

The turning point in Gaddafi's undoing may have been the U.S. intelligence investigation that eventually tracked a tiny piece of the bomb that blew up Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people, back to two Libyan intelligence agents, U.S. and British officials say. The evidence mobilized the world and produced an international effort that may now peacefully disarm Libya.

"What forced Gaddafi to act was a combination of things -- U.N. sanctions after the Lockerbie bombing, his international isolation after the Soviet Union's collapse . . . and internal economic problems that led to domestic unrest by Islamists and forces within the military," said Ray Takeyh, a Libya expert at the National Defense University.

Whether by coincidence or fear that Libya might be targeted, Gaddafi's envoys approached Britain on the eve of the Iraq war to discuss a deal, U.S. officials said.

"The invasion of Iraq sent a strong message to governments around the world that if the United States feels threatened by weapons of mass destruction, we are prepared to act against regimes not prepared to change their behavior," said a senior State Department official who requested anonymity.

So unilateral action by the United States and the near complete isolation of a rogue regime succeeded in ending the Libyan WMD threat without war, while ending the Iraqi threat via war. Meanwhile, Governor Dean proposes ending such unilateral actions, eschewing war, and ending the isolation of North Korea. One is reminded of the sage advice of Bert Lance: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Fulfilling the Promise of America: Meeting The Security Challenges of the New Century (Governor Howard Dean, M.D., Los Angeles, California, December 15, 2003, The Pacific Council on International Policy)

We can advance the battle against terrorism and strengthen our national security by reclaiming our rightful place as a leader in global institutions. The current administration has made it almost a point of pride to dismiss and ridicule these bodies. That's a mistake.

Like our country's "Greatest Generation," I see international institutions like the United Nations as a way to leverage U.S. power, to summon warriors and peacekeepers, relief workers and democracy builders, to causes that advance America's national interests. As President, I will work to make these institutions more accountable and more effective. That's the only realistic approach. Throwing up our hands and assuming that nothing good can come from international cooperation is not leadership. It's abdication. It's foolish. It does not serve the American people.

Working more effectively with the UN, other institutions, and our friends and allies would have been a far better approach to the situation in Iraq.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 20, 2003 8:19 AM

Ronald Reagan put the fear of God in Mr. Gaddafi.

Moammar has probably been concerned that George W. would follow-up.

Posted by: John J. Coupal at December 20, 2003 12:01 PM

Dean is from Vermont, and so when it comes to more thanjust foreign policy, he seems to be more of a Red Green kinda guy-- "If it ain't broke, you're not tryin'."

Now that we've opened up Libya to reason, can we at least expect the so-called human rights NGOs to put similar pressure on him to clean up his act internally?

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at December 20, 2003 1:46 PM

Ain't over til the fat lady sings. (Or the guy in green army sequins).

You should trust Qaddafi about as far as you can throw him.

(And especially be careful when he tells you exactedly what you want to hear.)

Posted by: Barry Meislin at December 20, 2003 5:52 PM