• Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Subscribe
  • RSS

An Irony About Libya

One of the goals of the Bush administration in the post-9/11 world was to discourage states from developing WMD, especially if those states were potential sponsors of terrorist groups.  The now infamous “Axis of Evil” speech and the doctrine of preemptive war (amongst other policy pronouncements and actions) all summed to the notion that the US reserved the right to invade a country that it suspected of sponsoring terrorists and especially to prevent WMD from falling into the hands of terrorist groups.

Indeed, there was hope by the Bush administration and amongst its allies eight-ish years ago that the US actions in Afghanistan and Iraq would prove to be a deterrent to states who might be contemplating such actions.

As history shows, it had the directly opposite effect on Iran, as it did not go without notice that Iraq was invaded to prevent a nuclear program (it was a key argument, in fact:  recall the aluminum tubes, the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson business, and Bush’s evocation of a mushroom cloud?) and that the only member state of the “Axis of Evil” that no one seemed interested in invading was the one with nukes (i.e., North Korea).  As such, the rational choice to procure a nuke PDQ was made.  Further, the presence of US troops on their west and east were likely also a prime motivator,

The one success of the Bush Doctrine in terms of coaxing a response in terms of state behavior was Libya.  That state long associated with terrorism in the US consciousness, that international pariah with the oddball leader not named Kim, it would be the one to be scared straight and give up its nuclear program.  It would be the one to renounce terror as a political tool, and it would be rewarded for its changed ways by the US with improved relations.

One could argue that Gaddafi’s motivation in the above was to avoid US military action against him like that which had been aimed at Saddam Hussein and that had been publicly speculated about in regards to Iran.

And yet, here we are.

It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi specifically engaged in a course of action clearly intended to forestall US military action against his regime and that, despite that, he is now under military attack from the US and its allies.

Moreover:  if he had actually acquired just one nuclear weapon, the current actions would likely not be taking place.

Related Posts:

About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    I think we did stick to that implicit bargain, Steven.

    I think whatever is happening here is about the history Gaddafi has with France (they’ve bombed him in the 80’s as well) and Britain (he armed the IRA) have with him.

    It could even have something to do with the egg-on-face the British got out of freeing the Lockerbie bomber.

    (Overall, this is a post again too centered in US motivations, and not enough on the instigators.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  2. ponce says:

    Even more ironic, our attack on Libya tells the Iranians they should complete their nuclear weapons as fat as possible.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. […] then the meta-lesson. What lesson does Iran learn from all of this? Qaddafi gave up his nukes to keep from being invaded by the US, and we went ahead and invaded him […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  4. André Kenji says:

    Kadafi never wanted to forestall anything in the US: his SONS, educated in Europe, wanted to sell oil and natural gas to the Europeans and get money in the process. There are another country in the world besides the US.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  5. It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi specifically engaged in a course of action clearly intended to forestall US military action against his regime and that, despite that, he is now under military attack from the US and its allies.

    Moreover: if he had actually acquired just one nuclear weapon, the current actions would likely not be taking place.

    And if you are a mullah in Tehran what lesson do you draw from this?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. […] co-blogger Steven Taylor makes this observation about where Libya finds itself eight years after surrendering ts nuclear weapons research program: It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi specifically engaged in a course of […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  7. […] co-blogger Steven Taylor makes this observation about where Libya finds itself eight years after surrendering ts nuclear weapons research program: It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi specifically engaged in a course of […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  8. […] co-blogger Steven Taylor makes this observation about where Libya finds itself eight years after surrendering ts nuclear weapons research program: It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi specifically engaged in a course of […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  9. Hello World! says:

    All of you – bloggers and commenters included – are forgetting the scope of what this mission is: to stop Gaddafi from killing Libians. Its a very different mission in Iraq and other places. Your forgetting that he has been actively bombing his own people before we started bombing him. The mission is not the same as Iraq or our other conflicts. If we achieve that, and if it paves the way for Libians to fight their own war then I will not be against this conflict so much. (keep in mind I was arrested for protesting against the Iraq war).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  10. anjin-san says:

    > And if you are a mullah in Tehran what lesson do you draw from this?

    Probably the same one they did when we deposed Saddam by force. That horse left the barn a long time ago.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. ponce says:

    “All of you – bloggers and commenters included – are forgetting the scope of what this mission is: to stop Gaddafi from killing Libians.”

    Saving “Libians” by killing “Libians!”

    Sounds like the same justification America has used for every shitty little war it’s been in for the past 40 years.

    Let’s see how the next few days go, though.

    There’s nothing more dangerous than a modern air force that has run out of legitimate targets.

    Maybe Obama is the one who can say no to the sociopaths.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  12. Barry says:

    And in Bahrain, the government and Saudi troops are happily killing people, with absolutely no interference from the USA. Because that mass murger is seen as securing the oil supply

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. Max Lybbert says:

    All of you – bloggers and commenters included – are forgetting the scope of what this mission is: to stop Gaddafi from killing Libyans.

    Another option is to wait until Gaddafi runs out of Libyans to kill, which is what I thought the plan was last week.

    I have a hard time believing that this action will drag on. However, we seem to have set things up perfectly to take responsibility for the safety of the rebel Libyans, the way the US was responsible for protecting the “Kurdistan” parts of Iraq, or the UN took over protecting Serbians until they declared independence. What I’m most worried about is the effort to go to war without explicitly declaring end goals. This reminds me of the US marines dropped into Beirut and told to “be a buffer” against five warring factions.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. Just curious, but are the mullah’s in Iran as simple minded as what is suggested here?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  15. Just curious, but are the mullah’s in Iran as simple minded as what is suggested here?

    What is so simple-minded about the calculations that having a nuclear capacity decreases the chances of your country being invaded?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. […] A very, very good point: It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi specifically engaged in a course of action clearly intended to forestall US military action against his regime and that, despite that, he is now under military attack from the US and its allies. […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. Jib says:

    What is so simple-minded about the calculations that having a nuclear capacity decreases the chances of your country being invaded?

    Yes but did they not already learn this with Iraq? Bush named 3 countries to the axis of evil, North Korea, Iraq and Iran but look how he always treated North Korea with kid gloves compared with Iraq. The message from that was for Iran to try and get Nukes before the US can free up enough military from Iraq to use in an invasion of Iran.

    So Iran did 2 things from the lessons learned, ramp up a nuke program as fast as possible and cause as much chaos as possible for US forces in Iraq. Then it is a race for them to get a bomb before the US gets clear of Iraq.

    Libya gave up the bomb because like Iraq, they did not really have a bomb program. Propaganda and a few buildings does not a nuke program make. They closed a useless program and got plenty of new biz from the West in exchange.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. […] Qaddafi’s forswearing off the pursuit of nuclear weapons, Steven Taylor makes the following point: It struck me as ironic that just under eight years ago Gaddafi […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  19. MSS says:

    Did the Libyan government really have a nuclear program worthy of the name? Or was it just a clever move by the Brother Leader to ingratiate himself with certain Western leaders eager to claim credit for a policy “success”?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. @MSS:

    A fair point–the seriousness of the Libyan program could be questioned. Although as NK demonstrates, things can be bought.

    But, yes, I think it was a mutually beneficial arrangement for both the Libyans and the Bush administration.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. […] Littau, Steven Taylor, and Jonathan Schwarz are all pointing out the obvious: Libya was, of course, the one great success […]

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0