Monday, December 22, 2003

Gaddafi's diplomacy

Muammar Gaddafi is demonstrating that good public relations equals good diplomacy. Gaddafi was chosen by the Reagan Administration to be one of the main Middle East bogeymen, along with the Ayatollah Khomeini, in anticipation of a need for a new threat against American and Israeli interests should the Soviet Union collapse. Once the Soviet Union did collapse, Israel was able to seamlessly move from being the bulwark against the threat to the oil fields posed by ungodly commies, to the bulwark against the threat to the oil fields posed by crazed Islamic fanatic dictators. Gaddafi was depicted as ruthless, evil, America-hating and insane, and keeping him and others like him down provided an excuse for continued American military and heavy diplomatic presence around Middle-Eastern oil fields, as well as providing an excuse to arm Israel to the teeth. Gaddafi didn't help matters by taking this personally - although having Reagan order a completely unprovoked attack on him killing his child would tend to personalize matters - and he consistently played into the CIA propaganda against him. Along the way he may have even sponsored some terrorism, although how you'd confirm this, given all the disinformation swirling around, is difficult to fathom. I'm not sure what happened, but he has suddenly discovered the power of public relations (it would not surprise me in the least to find he has hired a big American PR outfit to secretly craft his new image as a world statesman). The first step was to sacrifice some patsies for the Lockerbie bombing, and agree to pay two or three billion dollars to remove the taint of being associated with international terrorism (Libya almost certainly had nothing to do with Lockerbie, but CIA drug smugglers, acting either officially or to line their own pockets, probably played a role). The two or three billion dollars, which Libya can easily spare, was a small price to pay for acceptance by most of the world (except France and the United States). He then got France onside by agreeing to their blackmail to pay amounts to settle their claims against Libya for Libya's alleged role in the bombing of a French aircraft over Niger in 1989. Even after all this, the hardhead neocons in the U. S. government still wouldn't lift American sanctions on Libya. Libya has been negotiating for months to completely reenter international acceptance by agreeing to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction. Why Libya would agree to this is a good question, as its main obvious enemies, Israel and the United States, both of which express strong animus against Libya, have weapons of mass destruction. On the other hand, Gaddafi probably knows that his chemical weapons of mass destruction are largely useless on a real battlefield, and are mainly held for psychological reasons. Giving them up is probably worth it if sanctions can be lifted. Both Bush and Blair (especially Blair) are desperate for some evidence that the billions of dollars being spent in Iraq, not to mention the thousands of lives being ruined, has done some good in eliminating the threat of terrorism, and Libya was able to slot its negotiations into this desperation. The capture of 'Saddam' made the timing even better, as it now appears that Gaddafi agreed to give up his weapons to avoid a fate like 'Saddam' (after all, who among us would want to be captured by Kurds, drugged, and put in a hole so the Americans could pretend to make an heroic capture?). Actually the negotiations had been going on for months, but the capture of 'Saddam' made it suddenly easy for Bush and Blair to let Libya back into the international fold in exchange for the propaganda benefit of appearing to connect the Libya negotiations with the capture. With one big gesture Libya has become a 'good' country, eliminated much of the threat from an unprovoked threat from the crazies in Washington (the neocons have been stymied as the United States is now forced to play to the script that the negotiations under the threat posed by the attack on Iraq forced Libya to agree), and opened itself up to international development of much of its oil wealth. The Libyan agreement is being spun as a victory for the insane foreign relations of Bush and Blair (much as the Americans are trying to take credit for it, it was entirely a British diplomatic effort, the Americans having completely lost the knack of diplomacy), but is actually a hint to the rest of the world that the Bush-Blair monster can be manipulated if you have a good PR plan.