Engagement in Libya Was and Remains the Right Answer
In the form of a book review of Exit Gaddafi: The Hidden History of the Libyan Revolution by Ethan Chorin for The Spectator Magazine, I make the case why diplomatically and commercially engaging with Libya was always the right answer. I think this is one of the most urgent and important contributions to the debate about Libya that I’ve been able to put out there, so I strongly urge you to read and comment on the article.
Chorin’s real legacy is his unique version of the events which led to the uprisings, especially his focus on the causative role of the US-Libya relationship. In so doing, he presents the most succinct and engaging account yet in print of the secret diplomacy that led to Gaddafi paying off the Lockerbie families and renouncing his WMD program. Chorin puts forth the fascinating – yet likely erroneous – thesis that Gaddafi’s brilliant negotiating turned the Lockerbie families from the greatest opponents of Libya’s normalization with the West into its greatest proponents. According to Chorin, greed lured Western diplomats and businessmen into Gaddafi’s masterful gambit. Furthermore, Chorin asserts that the Bush administration’s policies towards Libya were primarily shaped by its desire ‘to prove’ that its strategy in Iraq was having a successful deterrent effect elsewhere. He simply dismisses the concrete counterterrorism advantages garnered from intelligence sharing.
This bears little resemblance to the reality I experienced. Few State Department or FCO officials were under any illusions about Gaddafi (as demonstrated by Wikileaks cables), many felt Libyan HUMINT seriously strengthened the fight against Al-Qaida, and no official I ever met was primarily motivated to approach Libya to demonstrate that America’s Iraq policy had encouraged other rogue states to come clean. Rather, Western diplomats and companies engaged Libya, because it was both in their interests to do so and because engagement could be used as a means to open Libya to the internet, educational exchanges, infrastructural investment, foreign scrutiny, and outside cultural influences. A by-product of this new openness was to raise the ambitions, aspirations, and know-how of ordinary Libyans. If North Korea could have been pried open in a similar manner only through dealing with Kim Jong-Il, wouldn’t policymakers have been wise to do so? And wouldn’t it have made the glorious reign of Kim Jong-Un (aka The Great Successor) less likely?
Now read the actual article on the Spectator’s Book’s blog.