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By Micah Halpern

Tuesday May 16, 2006


What is this world coming to?

The State Department has announced that the United States of America is normalizing relations with Libya. The United States and Libya? Until recently Libya was considered to be one of the most significant sponsors of terror in the world. The whole wide world. Why would the United States do such a turnabout? Or is it a turnabout? Is this really what it seems?

What this is, is the United States allowing Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi to reposition himself in the Arab world - after, only after, Ghadaffi has taken steps to prove himself to be a kinder, gentler Ghadaffi than he once was in the eyes of the West.

This is really about how Ghadaffi wants to see himself and how he now wants the world to see him. It is part of a plan concocted by Ghadaffi, one of the most wily, most despotic, rulers in the modern world. The brilliance of The Ghadaffi Plan is that while he is the ultimate winner, the Western world also benefits.

The story begins in 1979 when the United States Embassy in Tripoli was set aflame and diplomatic relations between The United States and Libya came to an abrupt and public halt. Libya was an outsider in Arab and world affairs. Rather than adopting a conciliatory or even a wronged attitude, Ghadaffi just took on "attitude" and reveled in the perverse pleasure derived from his outsider status.

Muammar Ghadaffi became the Bad Boy of the Middle East. It was a persona cultivated to perfection. In many ways the Libyan leader was and still is a farcical, even comical character. He is also a thug, a dangerous ruler and one of the most unstable players in the region. And Ghadaffi enjoyed taunting the United States and the West. Sponsoring terror, often in the guise of an ideology of liberation, became one of his favorite games and most powerful tools.

And in 1988 Ghadaffi sponsored a horrific, notorious, act of terror. Pan Am flight #103 was blown up over Lockerbie Scotland murdering 270 people the vast majority of whom were Americans, the majority students from Syracuse University.

As the international terror trial of the Libyan intelligence officers responsible for the terrorist attack was coming to an end and as international pressure was mounting against Libya and Ghadaffi, the Libyan leader made the first of his calculated decisions aimed at improving his image in the world. He made a tactical decision. Muammar Ghadaffi knew he could withstand the pressure and he believed he could turn Lockerbie into a big success. He was right.

Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi became a repentant rogue.

Ghadaffi assumed responsibility for Lockerbie by paying a settlement to the families that totaled approximately $2.7 billion (the exact amount must remain secret as part of the settlement agreement). It was a monetary calculus. Ghadaffi would pay out $3 billion, money he could well afford, and then he had the United States pay for the removal of all of Libya's unstable weapons of mass destruction.

In 2003, Ghadaffi announced that Libya was abandoning their nuclear weapons program. Ghadaffi invited the United States to come in, to box up and to haul out all of Libya's weapons of mass destruction. Sounds impressive. The truth is that most of the Libyan arsenal was comprised of old, former Soviet, materials. The Libyan arsenal was antiquated and rusting. The Libyan arsenal was so far gone that it was at the stage of being extremely dangerous to store. So Libya decided to let the Americans come in and do the dirty work.

And the Americans did it. The materials may have been old, but they were still weapons of mass destruction. And Libya gave them up.

In his own - convoluted and strange - mind, the leader of Libya is not just reaching out to the United States. Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi is making calculated and essential decisions that would help catapult him into a stronger and more stable position of power at home, in the region and in the world.

The payback is big.

Because he voluntarily opened up and threw away his country's nuclear arsenal, Libya, i.e. Ghadaffi can now buy nearly all the conventional weapons any country could possible want without limits and without supervision. And so Ghadaffi becomes one of the most powerful Big Boys in the region.

And because he did all this and because doing all this encouraged the United States to lift the embargo against Libya and because Libya is one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, Libya will now have significantly expanded markets netting Libya, i.e. Ghadaffi tens of billions of dollars in profit. And so Ghadaffi becomes one of the richest Big Boys in the region.

The move was brilliant.

What does the United States get from befriending Libya? The State Department of the United States of America can publicly announce and loudly proclaim to other rogue nations that power and profit is yours, too, if you make the move from pariah nation to accepted friend of the Western world. The United States can point to Libya as an example of a changed country. And the United States can cross their proverbial fingers and hope that North Korea and Iran learn by example.

Colonel Muammar Ghadaffi seized a good business opportunity. The United States has loftier goals.

4 June 2017 12:14 PM in Columns

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