November 09, 2004

Libya: A Model Rogue State?

Libya has always been the big question mark in the administration's foreign policy record. Conservatives like to cite the "coercive effects" of the 2003 Iraq invasion as the big catalyst for Libya's conversion. This is too trenchant by half. True, you can't just discount the role of the Iraq war either—it presumably had some effect. Qaddafi, after all, reportedly sat in his palace and replayed the images of Sadadam Hussein's capture over and over and over again. Still, the conventional wisdom is that Libya's conversion was primarily the result of long policy of engagement, and I think the CW is basically right.

Anyways, all this by way of recommending Lt. Jamie Ann Calabrese's Libya analysis for Strategic Insights. As she discusses, the relevant U.S. policy towards Qaddafi actually started long, long ago, way back in the Reagan years—when we began isolating Libya through a steady mix of sanctions and military strikes. The secondary, "carrot" component started during the Clinton years, when sanctions were relaxed, oil a few companies were allowed to return, and whatnot. That led the way for Bush II, at the prodding of Britain, to pursue a series of conditional engagement steps that brought Libya back into the non-rogue universe. As a highly relevant sidenote, it's interesting that hardliners like Undersecretary of State John Bolton were kept completely in the dark on what was going on with Libya, which apparently helped along the negotiation process. (It also explains why administration hardliners play down the importance of negotiations—because they played no part in them!)

So the key conclusion from Calabrese's paper is that punitive measures, like the sanctions put in place during the Reagan administration, need a very long time to take effect. Only then will engagement work. As it happens, the two rogue states du jour—Iran and North Korea—have been subject to punitive measures for some time. The parallels to Libya should, I think, be apparent. But the question then is how prominent a role the "coercive effect" of the Iraq War played on Libya. Clearly that war won't have any effect on Kim Jong Il or the ruling clerics in Iran (since Iraq is now a source of weakness, not strength, for us), but it's worth asking what sort of "stick" we ought to wield towards those rogue states. In his book, Nuclear Terrorism, Graham Allison recommends that we scare the living horsecrap out of Kim Jong Il by showing him videos of precision-guided rockets destroying Saddam's palaces. Not bad.

Of course, this is no doubt all academic, since the people who will be conducting our policy towards Iran and North Korea over the next four years will most likely be the very same people who were explicitly kept out of the loop on Libya for fear of spoiling it. Like John Bolton. Or Stephen Hadley, who led the refusal to engage Iran in late 2001, when Iran was basically begging us to take its al Qaeda captures off its hands. Sort of a concern, huh?
-- Brad Plumer 1:56 PM || ||