Politics

Pay-to-Play Qadaffi Apologia in The New Republic and Elsewhere

|

Putting the "soft" in "soft power"

Some quality raking of the journalistic muck from Mother Jones:

In February 2007 Harvard professor Joseph Nye Jr., who developed the concept of "soft power", visited Libya and sipped tea for three hours with Muammar Qaddafi. Months later, he penned an elegant description of the chat for The New Republic, reporting that Qaddafi had been interested in discussing "direct democracy." Nye noted that "there is no doubt that" the Libyan autocrat "acts differently on the world stage today than he did in decades past. And the fact that he took so much time to discuss ideas—including soft power—with a visiting professor suggests that he is actively seeking a new strategy." The article struck a hopeful tone: that there was a new Qaddafi. It also noted that Nye had gone to Libya "at the invitation of the Monitor Group, a consulting company that is helping Libya open itself to the global economy."

Nye did not disclose all. He had actually traveled to Tripoli as a paid consultant of the Monitor Group (a relationship he disclosed in an email to Mother Jones), and the firm was working under a $3 million-per-year contract with Libya. Monitor, a Boston-based consulting firm with ties to the Harvard Business School, had been retained, according to internal documents obtained by a Libyan dissident group, not to promote economic development, but "to enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi." So The New Republic published an article sympathetic to Qaddafi that had been written by a prominent American intellectual paid by a firm that was being compensated by Libya to burnish the dictator's image.

Lovely! It gets worse….

Presumably, Nye was sharing his independently derived view of Qaddafi. Yet a source familiar with the Harvard professor's original submission to the magazine notes, "It took considerable prodding from editors to get him to reluctantly acknowledge the regime's very well-known dark side." And Franklin Foer, then the editor of the magazine, says, "If we had known that he was consulting for a firm paid by the government, we wouldn't have run the piece." […]

Several thought-leaders were brought to Libya by Monitor to chat with the Leader—including neoconservative Richard Perle (who then briefed Vice President Dick Cheney on his visits), political economist Francis Fukuyama, and conservative scholar Bernard Lewis (who briefed the US embassy in Israel on his trip)—and a few of the "visitors," as Monitor referred to them, did write mostly positive articles, without revealing they had been part of the Monitor Group's endeavor to clean up Qaddafi. Some might not have even known they had been recruited for an image rehabilitation reffort.

Whole thing, well worth a read, here

Michael Moynihan just over a year ago went on a Libya junket financed by Saif al-Qaddafi himself. His take was a little, ah, different.