Matthew Yglesias gives President Bush backhanded credit for this one:

It is, moreover, a partial vindication of one of the nuttier aspects of grand strategy à la Bush as one imagines that our demonstrated willingness to invade countries on a rather thin pretext played a role in pushing Gaddafi into line.

The trouble, of course, is that Libya really isn’t that big of a deal as far as rogue states go. If this technique had worked with Iran or North Korea, that would have been a major good thing. As things stand, however, Operation Invade at The Drop of a Hat seems to be backfiring with the DPRK and Iran is still up in the air.

Which, to me, actually demonstrates the advantage of Iraq-style preemptive action: DPRK and Iran are comparatively immune from invasion because of the level of their nuclear programs and therefore the threat to invade if they don’t cooperate is much less credible in those cases.

Kevin Drum is less sure that Iraq and Libya are linked, noting that there’s mixed evidence:

The fact that Libya was apparently serious about negotiating with us certainly makes you wonder if Iran and Syria were equally serious. And it’s also hard not to wonder what would have happened with Iraq if we’d been willing to spend a year negotiating with them instead of five rather obviously unserious months.

As I note in his comments section, we did negotiate with Iraq for the better part of a decade, including the eight years of the Clinton presidency, various UN resolutions, variations on UN sanctions, etc. And, of course, it’s much easier to gain leverage with a carrot and stick approach if you’ve recently demonstrated willingness to actually use the stick.

Update (1556) Stephen Bainbridge is on board as well, although he agrees with Kevin that “Iran and Syria will be tougher nuts to crack, not to mention North Korea.”

Robert Tagorda also thinks the connection more than coincidental–and quotes even Howard Dean advisor Ashton B. Carter as saying so.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. James Joyner says:

    BH: We saw quite a bit of amelioration in Gaddafy’s sponsorship of terrorism following the 1986 bombing raids.

  2. Paul says:

    So… Basically Kevin wonders what Gaddafi would have done if Bush did nothing.

    DUH! Nothing. Evidence: What happened during the Clinton year?

    This was the slowest international gang tackle in history. Reagan grabbed his ankle and held him until Bush and Blair could fall on him.

  3. TM Lutas says:

    Kim Jong Il is not likely the originator of the N. Korean nuclear program. One thing that hasn’t been mentioned is Libya’s likely succession after the current Col. shuffles off this mortal coil. Let’s say that things would have stayed quiet in Libya. Let’s further say that Col Ghadafi simply drops dead 4 years from now with labs that have quietly progressed to the point of having something usable.

    What guarantee is there that his successor doesn’t sprint into production? Right, there is none.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Well, presumably, dismanting existing facilities and having inspection regimes in place would help. But there are never any long-term guarantees in international relations.