Jamahiriya Jamup

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We've all heard it claimed that if America hadn't invaded Iraq, Libya wouldn't have stopped its attempts to develop weapons of mass destruction. Yesterday's Financial Times gives us yet another reason to doubt that argument:

Libyan representatives offered to surrender WMD programmes more than four years ago, at the outset of secret negotiations with US officials. In May 1999, their offer was officially conveyed to the US government at the peak of the "12 years of diplomacy with Iraq" that Mr. Bush now disparages….

Why did we not pursue the Libyan WMD offer then? Because resolving the PanAm 103 issues was our condition for any further engagement. Moreover, as Libya's chemical weapons programme was not considered an imminent threat and its nuclear programme barely existed, getting Libya out of terrorism and securing compensation had to be top priorities.

[Via Matthew Yglesias.]

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  1. Can’t follow…to many negatives:

    to doubt the claim…would not have…stopped pursuing…absent the American invasion…

  2. Just for you, Gek, I have rewritten the opening lines.

  3. Oops, Seven, seven years of Clinton inactivity led to the 9/11 events! And no folks, Clinton in no way deserves credit for Libya. Sure, his administration might have gotten the ball rolling, but only the fearless leadership of President Bush has brought about the fundemental changes that we now recognize as the modern state of Libya. And with these new changes Libya is embracing, let it in no way convince you that they belong on the UN Human Rights Committee over America. No, there is no possible way that a islamic country has any concept of Human Rights.

    Ok, movin’ on now, up next, just how over zealous is the DEA?

  4. Another Bush claim skewered.

  5. The invasion of Iraq may not have closed the deal, but it didn’t hurt.

  6. It did more than “not hurt”:

    http://washingtontimes.com/national/20031223-121116-7239r.htm

    “I will do whatever the Americans want because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid,” Mr. Gadhafi told Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, according to a Berlusconi spokesman who was quoted in yesterday’s Telegraph of London.

  7. PapayaSF,

    He was ready to deal in 1999; try to spin that anyway you want to, but long before America invaded Iraq his mind was made up.

  8. PapayaSF,

    Not to disparage Italian politicians, but I don’t trust a damn thing any of them says. I mean, given what we now know, doesn’t it seem like the desperation in that quote might have been a bit, er, exaggerated?

  9. This geezer remembers the friendly atmosphere when Fidel Castro appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. (Ed was a pinko.)

    That Libya, Kuber (that’s what Kennedy called it) and Haiti have continued to perplex the US government obviously should not be attributed to the idiosyncrasies of those little countries and little dictators, should it?

    The wheels of major democracies spin slowly and grind fine.

    Ponder this. In fact, poll this:

    “Which would cause you greater concern: a nuclear weapon exploding somewhere in the lower 48 or most of the residents of Cuba and Haiti washing up on our shores?”

    Pollsters avoid this type of question because they know they are supposed to be the bland “filler” for media on slow news days.

    For Hit and Runsters dozing: people have value. The more the better. The Coast Guard is telling John Q. Public: don’t bother to bend down to pick up a dropped one hundred dollar bill. We’re picking them up for you and throwing them back–at your expense. Not to worry.

  10. “according to a Berlusconi spokesman”

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha haaahhhhhhhh! Stop it! Stop it! I can’t breathe!

    Ooh. I wet ’em.

  11. Q: I want to surrender all of my mustard gas.

    US: Not until we get this PanAm 103 stuff sorted out. You just sit on that for now.

    Q: Okay, won’t mention it again.

    Here’s a question that’s looking for an answer. Why wasn’t this then followed up on, after the 103 biz was settled? Why was this not mentioned by anyone until now, after Q gave his shit up, after the US invaded Iraq?

    Yellow journalism, pink journalism, make believe journalism. This story’s good for a laugh and that’s about it. Keep trying folks.

  12. Hey, Rush, if you are going to try irony, you might want to have a real point that isn’t absurd. This:

    “And with these new changes Libya is embracing, let it in no way convince you that they belong on the UN Human Rights Committee over America.”

    makes you look desperate and silly.

  13. Not to deflate all of the high moralizing here, but you guys know that there is a difference between having an offer that must be ‘persued’ by US diplomats is entirely different than having a WMD program handed to you with no questions asked, right?

    After all, I seem to recall a fellow in North Korea that ‘made an offer’ to the Clinton administration, as well. That one didn’t pan out.

    I know that the important thing is to make sure that you can gripe about the war some more, and I don’t mean to be a buzzkill, but the lengths to which some folks will go to disprove the obvious is remarkable. Come on, guys.

  14. Jason, well put.

    It should also be noted that the author of the piece, Martin Indyk, was a longtime employee of the Clinton State Department. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, he’s not a purely objective observer on this?

  15. The title of the piece flies in the face of common sense.
    “The Iraq War did not Force Gadaffi’s Hand”
    One would have to repeat that a lot to believe it,
    unless one simply can’t credit Bush with anything.

    The article reads as something written more with emotion,
    emotion bent on preventing any good from Saddam’s fall,
    than on facts leading to Libya revealing nuclear programs
    as an act simply conincidential in timing to the Iraq war.
    Indyk seemed even more intent on defending Clinton
    from any sense of disparagement and give him credit.
    Most of the piece would lead someone to think
    that nuclear weapons were known to exist all along,
    that talks on WSMs included the nuclear program.

    Not until the last paragraph did Indyk state
    “the Bush administration’s achievement
    in securing Libya’s nuclear disarmament”
    and still without letting it be apparent
    that it was unknown to us all alone.

    Indyk wrote a politically slanted piece,
    whether he meant to or not, I don’t know,
    but Cathy Young could have taken the facts,
    and then made a logical case for either view.
    As it is, this piece is preaching to the choir.
    No one else is going to take it seriously.

  16. It should also be noted that the author of the piece, Martin Indyk, was a longtime employee of the Clinton State Department. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, he’s not a purely objective observer on this?

    Well, it indicates that he was an insider who just might be in a position to know what transpired between Tripoli and Washington back in 1999, as opposed to a Telegraph hack repeating hearsay. But hey, you can believe what you want to believe.

    As for what else happened in those back channels between 1999 and 2004, I’m as interested as the next person in finding out. I wouldn’t assume, as Elmiron seems to do, that the blank spots in the public record mean that Indyk must be making shit up.

  17. I should add that the context of this story has always been Qaddafy’s efforts to curry favor with the US, which have been widely reported since before 9/11. I never put much stock in the idea that the Iraq war was necessary to get this result (or that the result means that Americans are all that more secure), precisely because it so clearly fits the pattern of Libya’s recent behavior.

    When I made this point before, the hawks here replied that Qaddafy wasn’t offering to give up his weapons programs until now, and that surely such a radical new move could only be attributed to Bush’s war in Iraq. Now we discover that Libya has offered to give up these weapons before, which kind of deflates that argument. Jason gamely notes that they didn’t unilaterally disarm until after the fall of Baghdad — and I appreciate the effort, Jason, I really do — but it’s getting harder and harder to assert that this was a radical break in Libyan policy that only a demonstration of American military power could achieve.

  18. Questions of causality beg for speculation.

    Ipse hoc ergo propter hoc can go both ways on this topic. Just because the deal was laid out in the Clinton years doesn’t mean that Bush’s invasion didn’t ultimately bring about Libyan capitulation. On the other hand, Just because Libya capitulated after the invasion of Iraq, it doesn’t mean that the invasion of Iraq was the ultimate cause of Libya’s capitulation.

  19. Shultz,

    I think it is fairly clear that they’ve been looking for a way to normalize relations with the West for some time now; and that they have been willing to give up their WMD programs also for sometime now. Bush, as in the WMD in Iraq claims, has overstated his case (but that just proves he is a politician I believe).

  20. Surrrrrrre…

  21. > Now we discover that Libya has offered to give up these weapons before,

  22. Andrew,

    “What he did the day the Iraq war started…”

    That is untrue; he had been in negotiations with the U.S. and U.K. governments over that nuclear programme at least a year before the invasion.

  23. To be blunt, Bush has specifically claimed that it was the invasion that caused Libya to change its mind; there is plenty of evidence that this is not the case; and that therefore Bush is exaggerating his contribution to these matters. If anyone is creating a false dichotomy, its your President.

  24. To be blunt, the evidence doesn’t say nearly as much as most here are claiming it does.

  25. What Gaddaffi did between 99 and 03 was build UP a nuclear program he didn’t even acknowledge in 99, still less offer to abandon.

    What he did the day the Iraq war started was to acknowledge progress he had made since 99, and offer to abandon what had now become a much more serious WMD program– an offer he made good the day Saddam was captured.

    That, to me, sounds more like an abrupt turn-around, rather than the smooth and inevitable conclusion of twelve years of diplomatic efforts.

  26. If Libya was willing to box up and turn in its nuclear program since 1999 what was this impoverished, sanctions riddled country doing continuing to develop nuclear weapons past that date? They were buying parts for their program into 2003. Why? Could it be that the disarmament proposal was for chem weapons which everybody knew about but not about their nuke program which was secret? Remember, they were partners with North Korea so they likely new that for 5 years, N. Korea had a sweet deal where it got financial concessions for giving up certain nuclear activities all the while continuing with other programs that were unknown.

    Why does anybody think that Libya’s dictator wasn’t doing the exact same thing in its offer to the Clinton administration?

  27. Lutas

    That is almost certainly the case– the 99 deal was for chem weapons, the 03 deal was for a nuclear program which was not only unsuspected in 99, but not nearly as advanced, AND the deal offered by Libya in 99 was unacceptable for other reasons. In 03, we get everything we wanted, including some things we didn’t anticipate…how does that reflect badly on Bush?

    Another observation: Libya’s contiuing EFFORTS to obtain nukes infused perhaps billions of dollars into the international black-market for nuke technology. Getting them to STOP TRYING was important, however likely or not they were to succeed. That goes for every rogue state…including Iraq.

  28. True, Qaddafi watched the US invade Iraq. He also simultaneously watched the US do nothing while North Korea withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, restarted its Yongbyon reactor, test-fired two missiles into the Sea of Japan, and announced it could “physically demonstrate” that it had nuclear weapons. Mixed signals, to say the least.

  29. I wasn’t as convinced as some of you by the linked-to article. My thought was more to the effect that North Korea also “offered” to get rid of its nuclear programs. And look how that turned out. So we don’t know how credible the offer was in 1999.

    But upon more searching, I found an earlier, better article (from the same site, and same center oddly enough) by Flynt L. Leverett. He actually seems to have been privy to the negotiations. He makes the case much better than Indyck does (Indyck doesn’t really connect the dots from 1999 to the present very well in my opinion). Above someone spoke of “finishing up the 103 business”, but Leverett says it wasn’t finished until early 2003. Once that was settled, the US let the UN sanctions be removed. That was our quid for the Libyan quo.

    I am not completely convinced that the war had nothing to do with it, but Leverett makes a strong case that diplomacy was the key. One qualm I have is that Leverett writes “[The Iraq War] had not yet started”. But it wasn’t like the War just all of the sudden happened. Might the Libyans been induced to enter or speed up the recent WMD negotiations once they realized that Bush was serious (or seriously crazy to some of you)? I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem as far-fetched as some of you would have it.

  30. Andrew,

    Hmm, what reflects badly on Bush is that he is claiming the invasion itself prompted Libya’s actions on all fronts; which is clearly a significant of over-statement of what actually occurred.

  31. If Bush wants to take credit for everything that happens on his watch – good and bad – that’s fine with me. No cherry picking, though.

  32. Michael:

    Well stated. The dichotomy here is false. Libya could have been, seems to have been, seeking ways to get out of the rogue-nation box for years. On the other hand, it seems to have continued to develop dangerous weapons and relationships with thugs after Qaddafy began his normalization offensive. It seems preposterous to suggest that the Iraq campaign had nothing to do with his decision to come clean on all of this — anyone with secret weapons programs watching the coalition’s rapid military success against a supposedly capable foe would have to be unnerved — and it also seems preposterous to set aside evidence of a different Libyan policy towards the world starting several years ago.

    These issues are complicated and are not perfectly shaped to fit either the hawks’ square hole or the doves’ round hole. But that won’t stop all the furious peg-pounding.

  33. Jesse:

    “Jason gamely notes that they didn’t unilaterally disarm until after the fall of Baghdad — and I appreciate the effort, Jason, I really do — but it’s getting harder and harder to assert that this was a radical break in Libyan policy that only a demonstration of American military power could achieve.”

    Glad to know my efforts are appreciated, even if for purposes of irony.

    The odd emphasis on ‘unilaterally’ seems to indicate that you don’t see the difference between offering to talk about disarmament and handing over stockpiles as a significant distinction. To put it mildly, that position is very optimistic about the powers of negotiation unsupported by a credible threat.

    Saddam was defeated in Kuwait and indicated that he would, at any moment, hand over his weapons. He then proceeded for 10 years to do everything in his power to obfuscate what happened to them. Why did he feel he could get away with this?

    Kim Jong Il absolutely agreed to dismantle this and that provided he got some goodies. That didn’t seem to work out, and lo and behold, he didn’t actually dismantle anything. Why did he think he could get away with it?

    The unilateral disarmament of Libya is different in that: A) there are actual weapons being handed over and B) there is no demand for goodies which would result in a demand for more goodies later. Since it worked so well for N Korea, why not try to get some goodies and keep extorting to the level you think you can get away with? In other words, why didn’t Qadaffi (I always screw up the spelling) think he could get away with it?

  34. South Korea must take the lead in everything but nuclear, because she is the D-day target.

  35. All those coincidences, they’re just so troubling to the liberal mind. Working overtime.

  36. First of all, Jason, don’t worry about screwing up the spelling — there’s at least a dozen spellings possible, and as far as I can tell none is preferred over the others.

    Second of all, I certainly agree that the world is different in 2004 than in 1999, and it’s hardly inconceivable that the Iraq war was among the matters on Qaddafi’s mind when he gave up his programs (including, yes, the nuclear program that some of you are making a big deal of, even though it’s pretty much universally acknowledged that it didn’t amount to much). What I dispute is the idea that the war was necessary to force Qaddafi’s hand, and that his action is a sign that the war was worth it.

    Some of the same people who point to Libya’s disarmament as a sign of the war’s success also point to Iran’s nuclear ambitions as a sign that more war is necessary. There are many differences between Libya and Iran, but surely one of the most important is that the country that gave up its weapons after the war is the same country that was offering to give them up before it. Similarly, the fact that there is a much more advanced democracy movement in Iran than in Libya today just might be related to the fact that there was a much more advanced democracy movement in Iran before the invasion, too. The war altered the Middle East, but it didn’t turn it upside-down.

    Finally, I’d like to thank Lionel for his excellent point and Michael for the link to a very interesting article.

  37. Like many who think that their comments are must reads in a public space, I have a tendency to want the last word (I’m still going round and round with some folks at De Long’s place and Calpundit on a long dead thread). Please try to hide your surprise that I have something else to say in that spirit.

    The false dichotomy is that war and diplomacy are separate. Underlying any negotiation with a strategic opponent is the threat of violence. If the realization of the threat is a plausible scenario for the dictator in question, negotiations are different than they otherwise would be. In international ‘law’, there is an unspoken joke behind every UN resolution not backed by the US military. Everyone looks very serious on TV when they are condemned by the UN, but really they ask, “What are you going to do about it?”

    The illusion is that there is ever a purely diplomatic solution to anything. It is this concept that makes me seem so hawkish in these parts. Eliminating force projection from the table means that you are forced to deal with a dictator on his terms only. Every act that erodes the credibility of this threat erodes the potency of any diplomatic solution.

    Terrorism is a brilliant tool from this perspective, by the way. What better way to undermine the credibility of a foreign threat than to be able to literally blow up whatever you want without fear of retribution? The logic that terrorists are just criminals that unfortunately die in the act means that military actions can’t be used against their organizers, who don’t have big armies to track and who get support from sources who can remain anonymous. You get to have a screaming face on TV to soak all of the blame while you bask in the glow of their ‘successes’ against the great satan. You get to compare the small resistance movement against a large military who refuses to hunt you down, and say ‘it is the great Army that is violent,’ even as cafes and malls blow up under your direction or with your money. You tie the hands of your enemy, kick him again and again, and become a public martyr at any hint that he has had enough.

  38. Just who was it that was president in 1999?

    And just when did Libya actualy abandon ALL of its WMD programs?

    And who was president at that time? And what was happening in international affairs?

    Yes, correlation /= causation, but the only thing this allegation is going to do is to demonstrate, once again, that Bill Clinton was not fit to be president.

  39. I’m not a leftist. I was just describing the trouble I see liberals have trying to explain away seeing Libya, Iran and North Korea all suddenly make conciliatory noises shortly after Saddam got rousted out of his hole.

    But think what you will, I’m steeled to get slapped again with your black glove. Ouching in advance.

  40. Hey! That hurt my feelings, you fascist!

    liberal enough for ya? 😉

  41. Douglas Fletcher,

    Well, Iran is not making such noises; indeed, it is pressing forward with its program and the U.S. is pressing the U.K., France and Germany to condemn that. What North Korea is or is not doing is always mysterious.

  42. I think Al Capone understood government politics very well.

    You can get more with a smile and a gun than with just a smile alone.

    What ever Kdaffy was doing for 12 years he seems to have been in a hurry to finish the job recently. Maybe some one told him about that great American Capone.

  43. My guess is that the Iranians would rather fight than switch.

    I’m betting that they can’t hold on to power until they get their atomics. I give them one year max. Six months likely. Six weeks not out of the question.

  44. Since no one here has claimed that Libya’s decision was a “coincidence” (quite the opposite) and virtually no one here is a “liberal,” I thought Douglas might have simply posted his comment to the wrong thread by mistake. I’m sorry to learn my theory was wrong.

  45. Douglas Fletcher,

    I didn’t know that you were a leftist; that’s interesting.

  46. Did Kerry vote to ‘gut’ intelligence? Bush overstates senator’s record on budget: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4509529/

    Apparently overstating the facts (lying) is common for Bush.

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