Michael Totten

Talk is Cheap

The editors at the Guardian think Libya’s decision to relinquish its weapons of mass destruction is a victory of talk over force.

Patient diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation, clearly enunciated principles and red lines, respect, mutual trust, and attractive incentives – these are the civil tools that helped bring, at the weekend, perhaps the most significant, tangible breakthrough in arms control since the strategic weapons pacts of the later cold war era. Libya has gone from 1986 target of Ronald Reagan’s bombs, from “rogue” sponsor of non-state, anti-western terrorism and, as it now admits, from active pursuer of nuclear and chemical arms to, if all sides honour the bargain, a prospectively valuable friend and partner.

I wouldn’t say Libya will be a valuable friend and partner any time soon. Not with Gaddafi in charge. The Guardian once again is too quick to make friends with dictators.
Even more dubious is the assertion that patient diplomacy explains Libya’s capitulation. Because capitulation is exactly what it was.
Andrew Apostolou says the French and Germans, if they happened to be involved, would only have mucked it all up.

The fact that France, Germany, and Russia were not directly involved in the contacts with Libya was also a key element in their success. We can only imagine the diplomatic fiasco that would have resulted from the French, German, or Russian foreign ministers landing in Tripoli to invite themselves into the negotiations as intermediaries. These supposed friends of the U.S. would have sent muddled signals to Khaddafi. Instead of facing a firm, but fair, Anglo-American position, the Libyan dictator would have ended up deluding himself — something that he does not find difficult — into believing that was an alternative to full compliance with his international obligations. Perhaps now is the time for that other victim of an overly active imagination, Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, to confine himself to literature.

If anyone doubts this is a victory for the hawks, they need only listen to Gaddafi himself:

I will do whatever the Americans want, because I saw what happened in Iraq, and I was afraid.

And that, I think, settles that.