Qaddafi, Not a Victim of Bush Doctrine


The recent transformation of Qaddafi is not a result of Bush Doctrine but of his frustration with his own formerly cherished dream of Arab unity. The failure of his efforts to join hands with Anwar Sadat of Egypt and Hafiz-ul Asad of Syria to form some sort of Arab Federation with them served as an eye-opener for him. Finally, he realized that he was running after an illusion feverishly, was unnecessarily sacrificing his own national interests and was, in his own words, "boycotted by the US and demonized by the West" for the sake of the elusive Arab unity.

Time magazine ran a cover in the mid-1980s and described the Libyan ruler Mu’ammar al-Gaddafi as "the most dangerous man in the world." During this period, the Soviet Union was designated as the “evil empire” by the then US President, Ronald Reagan and the memories of Hitler and Stalin tyranny and atrocities were still alive. Yet barely fifteen years later, it was Saddam Hussein, who was given this label. People had forgotten about Qaddafi and what he had been up to in recent years. The omission of Libya from the George W. Bush administration’s post-September 11 "Axis of Evil" came as a surprise to most casual observers, but it was by no means inadvertent.

Different views are being presented on the recent about-face of Gaddafi. One view has been expressed by the newspaper Australian in the following words: “Well, guess what. Less than a week after the final evidence that Saddam Hussein has indeed departed, with his capture near Tikrit, one of the region’s most destabilizing rogue states, Libya, has announced that it will scrap its nuclear and chemical weapons programs, allow free access to UN weapons inspectors and seek to fully rejoin the international community……Although negotiations between Tripoli, Washington, and London have been proceeding for some months, there can be no doubt that what finally pushed Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi over the edge were last week’s pictures of a shrunken and humiliated Saddam Hussein. The overthrow of the Iraqi President by US, British and Australian forces has sent to other despots who toy with holding the world to ransom with their WMD the clear message that this type of behavior now has a use-by date, and their threats will not be tolerated indefinitely by free nations. Pre-emption has worked, as far as Libya and Iran are concerned, and there are signs that it is working on North Korea too. The cave-in by Gaddafi is a big win for Mr. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, and for the world.”

It may be regarded as a matter of timing that Tripoli, London and Washington chose to announce it just after a week after Saddam’s capture, as Bush rating was going high after it. The latest CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey was conducted Dec. 15-16, two days after the stunning announcement on Sunday that Hussein had finally been captured by U.S. troops. Bush’s approval is now at 63%, the highest since last June, and seven percentage points higher than what Gallup obtained in a Dec. 11-14 poll. Bush’s job approval rating started to gain on Sunday, Dec. 14, the day of the announcement. If interviews for that day are excluded, Bush’s pre-Hussein capture approval rating, obtained on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday was actually 54%, suggesting his approval rallied by nine points.

Instead of relating the timing of the announcement with the capture of Saddam, the effort to connect ‘the cave-in by Gaddafi’ to ‘last week’s pictures of a shrunken and humiliated Saddam Hussein’ is baseless, as the process had started nine months ago in March, when neither Saddam was captured nor any war against Iraq had started. Just a debate was going on the merits and demerits of a pre-emptive war theory presented by the US neocons. No one was still sure that the war threat would really be carried out.

This period of nine months may be regarded as the last stage of Gaddafhi transformation, which had started with his frustration with the cause of ‘Arab unity’. On October 6, 2003 a news item appeared in Tripoli that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, once a devoted and energetic champion of Arab unity, announced this weekend his definitive separation from the Arabs, whom he heavily criticized.

"The era of nationalism and of Arab unity is forever gone. These ideas which once mobilized masses no longer have any value," he said." The Arab League is in the middle of giving up the ghost, and Arabs will never be strong even if they unite… They will remain content every night to watch bloody newsreels from Palestine and Iraq."

Gaddafi had some strong words for the Arabs, denying them human qualities, and publicly challenging their former policy of helping movements and political groups from Arab countries. "Libya has for too long endured the Arabs, for whom we have paid blood and money," he said, adding that as a result, his country had been "boycotted by the US and demonized by the West." It is this frustration with Arab nationalism that he started feeling the futility of sacrificing himself for an elusive Arab unity and suffer the wrath of US boycott and demonization of the West for nothing. This feeling prompted him to mend relations with the West.

But, another view for this transformation of Gaddafi is presented in the statement of a senior State Department official, “"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." White House officials said they felt certain that the brewing military confrontation with Iraq influenced Gaddafi’s decision to reach out. "For anyone who is a hawk on weapons of mass destruction, this is a welcome event," said Ashton Carter, assistant secretary of defense during the Clinton administration and an adviser to Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean. "We should hope that our resolve over Iraq’s WMD had something to do with convincing the Libyan leadership to take this course."

This view is further strengthened by Ricard Perle, a neocon influential adviser to Bush administration, "It’s always been at the heart of the Bush Doctrine that a more robust policy would permit us to elicit greater cooperation from adversaries than we’d had in the past when we acquiesced. With the capture of Saddam, the sense that momentum may be with us is very important." Perle had provoked much criticism for saying a successful U.S. invasion of Iraq would signal to other foes that "you’re next." He said that the actions by Libya and Iran prove that the threat alone was sufficient to produce action. "Gaddafi surely had to take more seriously that we would not allow him to get away with the programs he was embarked," he said.

But this view is countered by Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.), a presidential aspirant. He portrayed the success with Libya as an exception to the Bush Doctrine. "Ironically, this significant advance represents a complete U-turn in the Bush administration’s overall foreign policy," he said in a statement Saturday. "An administration that scorns multilateralism and boasts about a rigid doctrine of military preemption has almost in spite of itself demonstrated the enormous potential for improving our national security through diplomacy."

This emphasis on diplomacy is emphasized by the British officials as well. While acknowledging the value of strong action, they maintained that Britain’s decision to reestablish diplomatic relations with Libya in 1999 was a factor. Delicate talks had been underway for two years over the Pan Am case. In the following months, the U.S. and British governments mobilized diplomats, intelligence officers and proliferation specialists to assess Libya’s weapons programs and, eventually, to talk directly with Gaddafi’s own experts.

According to the British analysis, it took more than two years of diplomatic efforts to examine Libya’s desire for normalization of relations and to get confirmation of its real intentions by the dispatch weapons experts to Libya. A team of U.S. and British intelligence agents and weapons specialists made two trips to Libya, officials said, where they were allowed to visit 10 secret weapons sites, were shown chemical-warfare agents and discussed details with Libyan scientists.

In 1999, when Britain established diplomatic relations with Libya and also two years earlier, there was no talk of pre-emptive strike on Iraq or any manifestation of the so called Bush Doctrine. Now relating ‘Gaddafi cave-in’ to the show of US might is nothing more than an artificial attempt to show the success of a failed Doctrine. Gaddafi had been passing through his own stages of transformation, which has noting to do with the Bush Doctrine.

Instead of war threats, the emphasis has now turned to diplomacy. In a strange reversal of status, Libya is now being touted by the United States and Britain as the new example of how to succeed in ridding a nation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and long-range missiles. It provides the model, they said, for how to move forward with Iran, North Korea, Syria and potentially others.

"Leaders who abandon the pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them will find an open path to better relations with the United States and other free nations," President Bush said in his surprise announcement. "When leaders make the wise and responsible choice, when they renounce terror and weapons of mass destruction, as Colonel Gaddafi has now done, they serve the interest of their own people, and they add to the security of all nations."

As regards Libyan-US relations, much of the two centuries of strife was actually the 160 years or so between the piracy wars of the early 1800s and the last several decades, during which time the two countries had no contact at all. Many analysts have concluded that American proclamations to the contrary, the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya did little to change Gaddafi’s policy:

As the United States itself was to claim, he attempted to develop weapons of mass destruction, and Libya was at least tangentially involved in the downing of the civilian passenger Lockerbie and UTA flights in the late 1980s. St. John’s treatment of the Lockerbie affair is appropriately guarded about Libya’s culpability; many analysts still believe that it was a collaborative operation involving some non-Libyan–probably Palestinian–actors as well. But Gaddafi had no choice except to bow to the Western condition to accept the responsibility for it, even though calling himself ‘not guilty’, as he was keen to normalize relations with the West.

The first Bush administration, in trying to assess and meet the post-cold war threats to the United States, developed the strategy of isolating "rogue states"–of which Libya was an exemplar, along with Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney’s 1993 Regional Defense Strategy document embodied a shift from global containment to regional assertiveness. Libya’s failure to produce the Lockerbie suspects for trial ended in UN sanctions. This was only the second time the UN imposed sanctions for failure to comply with Security Council resolutions, the first having been prompted by Iraq’s refusal to withdraw from Kuwait.

The Clinton administration extended the experiments with UN sanctions on both Iraq and Libya. In the Libyan case, and perhaps in part because there were specific and easily achievable actions the Libyan government could take–the surrender of the Lockerbie suspects–the UN sanction regime accomplished what the U.S. bombing did not: a substantial change in Libyan foreign policy. The Organization of African Unity, led by South African President Nelson Mandela, a longstanding comrade in the struggle against racism and imperialism, encouraged Gaddafi to deliver the suspects and called for lifting the sanctions. In 1998, Gaddafi agreed to the trial, and the UN sanctions were suspended.

Low-level contacts between the United States and Libya commenced at the end of the Clinton administration. To Libya’s disappointment, in August 2001, the act governing the separate U.S. sanctions, which covered both Libya and Iran, was extended by the U.S. Congress. Nonetheless, merely a month later, Libya provided lists of terrorist suspects to the CIA, as the United States prepared to mount its "war on terror" after the attacks of September 11. Libya proved to be a surprisingly useful ally in that war. Since then, low-profile contacts have continued and the Libyans had begun discussions about providing compensation to the families of Lockerbie victims.

Contacts were underway between the International Red Cross, the French Red Cross, the al Gathafi International Foundation for charity societies and the Libyan Red Crescent with the aim of coordinating the provision of assistance for the American Red Cross, in contribution towards saving the American victims who were harshly affected as a result of these atrocious attacks and explosions, which took place in American cities and targeted major institutions including the World Trade Centre in New York and the American ministry of war.

Earlier Colonel Muammar al Gathering had called in a statement that regardless of the disputes with America there should be no psychological barrier for offering assistance and humanitarian aid to the American people. He emphasized that assistance should be offered to all people in America who were seriously injured in those terrible attacks; especially as American hospitals have said there was a serious shortage of blood.

He called on the International Red Cross, Red Crescent, the International Green Crescent and all humanitarian organizations and societies throughout the world to accelerate the provision of humanitarian assistance, regardless of political considerations or differences between America and other nations of the world.

The Bush Doctrine was not even born at that time, when Gaddafi had started unilaterally cooperating with the US in the name of humanitarian service.