Friday, December 19, 2003
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Libya decides to bandwagon
Agree or disagree with the Bush administration, this is great news:
Since Lockerbie, Ghadhafi has been pretty quiet on the whole terrorism/rogue state front. Over the past decade, he's repeatedly made noises about wanting better relations with the West. And he's probably such an idiosyncratic character that it would be tough to call him part of any trend.
Still, one has to wonder -- does this happen if the U.S. doesn't invade Iraq? [But the negotiations started nine months ago!--ed. And the war was just beginning at that precise moment.]
UPDATE: President Bush clearly thinks there's a link:
So does the New York Times in a truly humble editorial:
posted by Dan on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM
“Still, one has to wonder -- does this happen if the U.S. doesn't invade Iraq?”
Nope, the successful invasion of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein made all the difference in the world. Scum bags respond favorably only to well executed acts of violence. Why do some people (like those associated with the fatuous Harvard Kennedy School of Government) find this difficult to comprehend?posted by: David Thomson on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Obviously, we will never know for sure and it is quite normal for the administration to present it as a great diplomatic success (especially when there are not that many).
But, I am not completely convinced that it is a consequence of the invasion of Iraq:
Most realists would probably agree that the real potentially problematic countries in the region are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. That's why the invasion of Iraq and the focus on Iran and Syria are difficult to understand.posted by: amusedfrog on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Ghadhafi has attempted for years to lose its pariah status - this is the final stage of a normalisation process that has lasted for years.
That's the key - the trend is absolutely clear and this is absolutely expected. To try to tie it to any other event violates Occam's razor and common sense.
Gaddafi used the resolution of the Lockerbie massacre, on terms unfavorable to him, in order to drop sanctions and re-integrate Libya into the world. Mostly this happened pre-Iraq.
David Thomson should look up the psychological meaning of "projection".posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
OK, Dan. We're on track to spend $.5 trillion on Iraq alone. That's $1500 to $2000 plus interest for every man, woman and child in the US. It's real money. The question is: are we getting a good ROI?
Once you take away the "clear and present" WMD danger, the argument for going after Saddam at all costs becomes a whole lot weaker. Sure, it helps out the Iraqis, so long as we don't go with the whole "American Empire" model promulgated by PNAC.
Compare this with the Afghan case: that took something like $20 billion total so far. It's an order of magnitude cheaper, and we took out a proven threat.
If "getting Saddam" was really the goal in Iraq, there are other mechanisms that might be lower risk, and cost.posted by: p mac on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Gaddafi used the resolution of the Lockerbie massacre
Exactly. Work towards this result began 9 months ago.posted by: PSoTD on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Well, no, it doesn't, though the point made above about Qaddafi's trying to normalize his relations with the West since the Soviet collapse is a fair one. Libya's giving up on WMD's would be a good thing, but let me suggest another important test for Qaddafi -- the abandonment of Libya's sponsorship of terror gangs, tribal bandits and Islamists in West Africa's endemic civil wars. Libyan WMDs might cause the threat at some point (though we don't yet know how far Qaddafi brought his country's WMD programs), but Libyan promotion of civil strife in West Africa has been killing people by the thousands for years.posted by: Zathras on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Can Libya really stop aiding groups to its west, though? Being active in west Africa's problems is the only way to maintain a semblance of control. It would definitely be out of Libya's interests to see the mess spread as far as their country.posted by: spoon on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
"who believed seriously that the US was going to invade another Arab country after the post invasion mess in Iraq"
That would be Libya - Q.E.D.
Which follows from:
Who believed seriously that the US was going to invade another Arab country after the post invasion mess in Afghanistan?
DOn't see the pattern? Color me surprised. Apparently the "Most realists would probably agree" are of Arabian heritage.
Your rebuttal writes itself.
posted by: TommyG on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
In my opinion, Libya is the best counterexample to Bush's "pre-emptive strike" policy. Using Bush's policy, we would have invaded Libya during the 80's (terrorists! WMDs! a bad man! a better case than Iraq!) We would have spent billions and we would end up holding onto a country for decades that barely wants us there.
Instead, we have let time and the enticement of joining the world community serve as the carrot on the end of the stick to bring about reforms.
Patrickposted by: Patrick on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
You are leaving out the part about invading Iraq while still not finished in Afghanistan. We simply didn't imagine that either would be bungled to the extent we've witnessed.
Invading ANOTHER Arab country today would be a really hard sell!posted by: Mark-NC on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Oh Goodie! It's time for another round of "Moving Goalposts" with critics of the Bush foreign policy. What fun (and how frequently we've gotten to play this month!).
So Saddam didn't count, because Bin Laden is far, far worse. And Libya doesn't count because Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are far, far worse. Iran doesn't count because the Europeans chalk that one up in their column (pay no attention to the looming shadow the US military casts from across the border). And Afghanistan doesn't count because, natch, Afghanistan is still a mess (here's a tip: pick up a history book; Afghanistan has ALWAYS been a mess).
How many gimmes do you guys get? This is like playing minigolf with my six year old son.
My advice would be for you guys to give the foreign policy criticism a rest for a couple of months, and go on the rampage about domestic issues: the greed of big business, the leak of jobs to China, not enough free drugs for oldsters, that kinda thing.
Right now, this is just not working for you.posted by: Kelli on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
"Obviously, we will never know for sure"
posted by: melk on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
OK, Dan. We're on track to spend $.5 trillion on Iraq alone. That's $1500 to $2000 plus interest for every man, woman and child in the US. It's real money. The question is: are we getting a good ROI?
Hell, we're on track to spend about 5 trillion in LBJs war on poverty and still no ROI there...
And, oh yes, we've spent untold trillions as well defending Germany and Japan since WWII and not a whisper from the left. And aren't we STILL in Germany 58 years later? And from what I can tell, they don't seem to want us there either according to their polls...
Seems to be that the only moral wars are started by Democrats so that's ok, but if a Republican gets involved, it's only about corporate greed.
When are Democrats going to make the arguments they used to like in the 60s when the mission was about freedom?posted by: Sickles on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
According to Powerline, the NY Times is giving Bush credit:
"Over the past five years, by turning over two suspects for trial, acknowledging its complicity in the Lockerbie bombing and paying compensation to victims' families, Libya finally managed to persuade the United Nations Security Council to lift the international sanctions that had shadowed its economy and its international reputation for more than a decade. Those sanctions were lifted in September. This page recommended lifting American sanctions as well, but President Bush left them in place pending further steps, most notably Libya's decision to end its unconventional weapons programs. It is now clear that he was right to do so. The added American pressure worked just as intended."posted by: ROA on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Um, does this really change anything regarding Libya? Probably not. Ghadhafi is getting a bit old, and he has decent relations with his neighbors. He wasn't going anywhere, and he knew it.posted by: raj on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
The domino effect is working, this time in favor of us good guys. I read yesterday, but can't remember the source, that Syria is also planning on re-joining the human race of peaceful nations. More and more Islamic nations will realize there is nothing to be gained by continuing the brutality and terrorism.
Saddam's trial will be a real eye opener that even the BBC and the alphabets won't be able to ignore. The NYT won't think its important enough to cover and will to an eight part expose on the scandal Republican paper clip consumption.
I hope Bush saves the trial to correspond to the Democrat convention. Ideal time to juxtapose their anti-Americanism, lies and distortions with the anti-Americanism, lies and distortions of Saddam and his henchmen, the axis of evil, etc.
Old Europe (the EU) will be in complete chaos and defunct by the end of next year. Hope people kept their old passports and money. They may come in handy in the very near future.
For the record, nobody is arguing that Lybia is not a success, but many of us think that it is probably more a success of containment than of preemption.
BTW, other people think the Iraq invasion did not accelarate the process:
Regarding the dangers in the region, I maintain what I said earlier, and I would like to see arguments proving the contrary instead of accusations of moving the goalpost:
- Syria represents no danger whatsoever for the US
- Iran is in a post-revolutionary normalisation and presents no immediate danger (there is the non proliferation issue for the medium term°
- Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are really scary / one country has the largest reserves of oil, the other one is nuclear, both are main areas of support for Al Quaeda. If you compare birth rates in Iran on one hand and Pakistan and Saoudi Arabia on the other, you will see clearly where the potential danger is.posted by: amusedfrog on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
It's obvious there will be a lot of back and forth about to what extent the Iraq War had to do with Qaddafi's stand down. But it will be hard to make the argument that it had nothing to do with it at all. In the end, what amazes me, as one who who voted for Gore (in fact NEVER voted for a Republican for pres in my life) is how compeltely the Democratic candidates (with the exception of Lieberman) are walkign into walls on the Terror War. Don't they know that Bush is holding most of hte cards on this one and they should keep their mouths shut until they know the situation? What's their IQ? It would seem evident. In the end, what we may be witnessing, among other more important, is the decimation of the Democratic Party. What if they end up with DEan gaining twenty-five percent of the vote?posted by: Roger L. Simon on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Sure, W and Iraq may have had their effects on Q.. but then again, maybe all this happened because a butterfly flapped its wings in Bombay?posted by: bubba on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
"Obviously, we will never know for sure and it is quite normal for the administration to present it as a great diplomatic success (especially when there are not that many)."
What? "Present" it as a success? It is a success!
"Most realists would probably agree that the real potentially problematic countries in the region are Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. That's why the invasion of Iraq and the focus on Iran and Syria are difficult to understand."
I'm not sure what "realists" would think but most folks in touch with reality would describe Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Algeria and Egypt all as "problematic." Indeed, a few other countries I'm sure.
posted by: russ e on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Somehow, I just can't believe that if the Democratic candidates followed Roger L. Simon's advice and stopped talking about, or at least criticizing the conduct of, the Terror War, he'd be complaining they were hiding their opinions and unworthy of support.
All challengers to incumbents face this problem.posted by: Andrew J. Lazarus on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
A spokesman for Mr Berlusconi said the prime minister had been telephoned recently by Col Gaddafi of Libya, who said: "I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid."
Daily Telegraph, April 9, 2003
Doesn't it strike you as interesting that the Democratic candidates with access to good, current intelligence regarding the war on terror (i.e. the "Washington insiders") come down nearer to Bush than they do to Dean and the other "outsiders"? Any guesses as to why this might be? Why might Hillary sound like a neo-conservative on the WOT? Could it be that the more you know, the more you think Bush's strategy is really the only game in town?
I think this is what Roger L. Simon is getting at--not that the Dems shouldn't try to formulate a foreign policy but that they invent one out of whole cloth at their (and the party's) peril.posted by: Kelli on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
I find all the excitement and self-congratulation generated by something Qaddafi merely *says* to be rather interesting.
Sure, I'd like to believe too; but guys like Qaddafi don't have terrific track records when it comes to "doing the right thing." Or even doing what they say--except, I suppose, when it comes to assassinating dissidents living in exile, funding certain organizations or causing mayhem, generally. (And is it merely a coincidence that Assad is suddenly talking peace and conciliation after terrorists fleeing the bombings in Turkey somehow end up in Syria, or after the screws are put to Saddam in Iraq? Or for Arafat to make earnest calls for peace, whenever the going seems to be a bit rough? Go figure.)
The working principle here is when the attention span is of goldfish duration (as the west's has consistently appeared to be), just lie low until the storm blows over.
While Bush has proven that America's attention span has increased somewhat, it behooves us sound-byte westerners to show a bit of patience, to wait and see, to be vigilant and prepared, and to be wary of murderous tyrants who tell you exactly what it is we want to hear....posted by: Barry Meislin on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
“...as one who who voted for Gore (in fact NEVER voted for a Republican for pres in my life) is how compeltely the Democratic candidates (with the exception of Lieberman) are walkign into walls on the Terror War... In the end, what we may be witnessing, among other more important, is the decimation of the Democratic Party. “
Truer words were never spoken. The fight for the very soul of the Democrat Party is unavoidable. I will add one more prediction: the odds are high that Senator Joseph Lieberman , like his more conservative colleague, Zell Miller, will feel compelled to support President George W. Bush’s reelection!
The Howard Dean juggernaut is unstoppable. Most Democrats involved in the nominating process are ideologically far left of center. This is the case even in the South. The New Democrats who backed Bill Clinton in 1992 will now feel alienated. People like Robert Rubin, Brad DeLong, and James Fallows are probably tempted to go on a ten day drinking binge. They have a harsh choice to make in 2004.posted by: David Thomson on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
“Nope, the successful invasion of Iraq and capture of Saddam Hussein made all the difference in the world. Scum bags respond favorably only to well executed acts of violence.”
My earlier post needs to be a bit more nuanced. Scum bags indeed do initially respond only to well executed acts of violence. Still, soon afterwards we might wish to offer them a carrot. This combination usually works best in the real world.posted by: David Thomson on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
To say this is anything but a huge win for Bush is a lie. How much of the credit is deserved might be up in the air, but he will get it, and most of it (for this) will probably be deserved.
But what I find interesting is how the Bush Administration is playing many different games at once. With the Defense Department busy on Iraq and Afganistan it seems they were on the sidelines. The State Department in REAL cooperation with the UK was given freedom to address this issue away from the spotlight. The results are excellent. I think I would be a whole lot more confident with Bush's foreign policy if this was the way it was regularly done.
Bush's hands-off management style certainly has costs, as the changes of tactics in Iraq are showing. But it also has the freedom of allowing multiple strategies to be followed. Some of his key advisors maybe dogmatic, but he is not (or is just not engaged enough to be dogmatic). Hopefully in the future when there is a debate between Colin Powell and Rumsfeld/Cheney the President will be a little bit more likely to let Powell have his way. After all cooperation and patience produce results. So does impulsive invasions, but they are often much more expensive in terms of money and lives.
As for the Dems, I think this is a partial validation of some of the more intelligent critiques of the Bush policies. Namely that you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar, and that a carrot might be as good as a stick...even when dealing with some unsavory characters.posted by: Rich on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
Point of order, if indeed Libya has been sidling in this direction for years, does that support the case for diplomacy being the catalyst for this? Maybe at first blush, but look deeper. Are we expected to believe that Gadhafi has been trying to be a good boy for ten years, and then suddenly, as a pure coincidence, he throws all of his cards on the table within the 6 month span the the US took out Iraq and nabbed Hussein in a hole in the ground? How far do you want to stretch credulity? Yeh, maybe it was a pure coincidence, and maybe had Al Gore been busy bickering in the security council right now while Hussein laughed his ass off in Iraq Gadhafi would still have found god or whatever. That's possible, but is it plausible? Maybe, but here's the problem with that arguement. Gadhafi has admitted that he's been _expanding_ his WMDS for the past few years. Now if Libya has spent the last few years going down the diplomatic path to disarmament, why in gods name would they keep spending tons of money on a technology they would be forced to throw away?
""They had centrifuges turning and were making enriched uranium, and once you are able to enrich uranium yourself you are way down the road," he said. "This was a serious programme, and one that was not bought off the shelf."
Does that sound more like a country that had been slowly gradually convinced of the folly of WMD, or one that had just had the bejeesus scared out of them and are desperately emptying their pockets?posted by: Mark Buehner on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
That this took as long as it did is an indication that without that fnal push of Saddam'scapture, Quack-Dafy would NEVER have taen the final step without a push. And soe intel behind the scene, helped as I gather it, as well.
But what interests me more, here, is that this situation seems to also speaks rather loudly as to the effectiveness of the UN in WMD's Consider; that Libya has found itself in need of de-arming means it was armed... for years... with Nuclear weapons banned under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty they were a signatory to.
So much for the arguments about trusting the UN to deal with such matters. And so much also, for the malcontents here at home in the US trying to direct us toward the UN running the show. This situation shows that was a Nuclear attack waiting to happen.
But it didn't because the current occupant of the White House not only has some testicular fortitude the one he replaced did not, but also one that is a student of history.
History shows clearly treaties don't keep the peace... the only path to peace in this world is the judicious use of military force. Mr. Bush and his administration have the wit to see this truth, and are reaping the benefits of a possibly more peaceful world as a result of that truth, and it's resulting policy.
It's really that simple.posted by: Bithead on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
I would suggest that Libya is not a very good counter-example of preemption. Had Reagan applied the doctrine of preemption to the extent that Bush had, there would have been no Lockerbie.
You can only be complacent about what happens during the time you are enticing if you survive it.posted by: DennisThePeasant on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
I'll grant that Libya cannot be denied as a public score for the Administration, though I would argue it's a mostly a PR win. Nonetheless, as a token victory it sounds very impressive and will move the American electorate. The Administration has been moving ruthlessly to project competence in the foreign policy arena in the past month. In other words it's heard the process criticisms. And responded. As it has done so on other issues. However I would argue that like as in other issues, the response has been mostly cosmetic.
But as a nicely timed and wrapped holiday present for the American public, this is sure saving GW's election prospects bacon. Essentially to reverse the trend now, and give the Democrats traction the economy will have to fall apart, we'll have to take a major terroist attack like two nuclear power plants going critical, or we'll have to have a disaster in Iraq or the Taiwan straits.
I still don't believe in GW Bush, but there's no denying that momentum to victory in 2004 is now again on his side.posted by: Oldman on 12.19.03 at 07:01 PM [permalink]
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