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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Stephen Walt gets it wrong again

Here's Stephen Walt on Libya from January 2010 (Hat Tip: Martin Kramer).
First, although Libya is far from a democracy, it also doesn't feel like other police states that I have visited. I caught no whiff of an omnipresent security service -- which is not to say that they aren't there -- and there were fewer police or military personnel on the streets than one saw in Franco's Spain. The Libyans with whom I spoke were open and candid and gave no sign of being worried about being overheard or reported or anything like that. The TV in my hotel room featured 50+ channels, including all the normal news services (BBC World Service, CNN, MSNBC, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, etc.) along with contemporary U.S. sitcoms like "2-1/2 Men," shows like "Desperate Housewives," assorted movies, and one of the various "CSI" clones. A colleague on the trip told me that many ordinary Libyans have satellite dishes and that the government doesn't interfere with transmissions. I tried visiting various political websites from my hotel room and had no problems, although other human rights groups report that Libya does engage in selective filtering of some political websites critical of the regime. It is also a crime to criticize Qaddafi himself, the government's past human rights record is disturbing at best, and the press in Libya is almost entirely government-controlled. Nonetheless, Libya appears to be more open than contemporary Iran or China and the overall atmosphere seemed far less oppressive than most places I visited in the old Warsaw Pact.


My own view (even before I visited) is that the improvement of U.S.-Libyan relations as one of the few (only?) success stories in recent U.S. Middle East diplomacy. Twenty-five years ago, Libya and the United States were bitter antagonists: U.S. and Libyan warplanes clashed on several occasions in the Gulf of Sidra, and Libyan agents bombed a discotheque in Germany that was frequented by U.S. soldiers. U.S. aircraft attacked Libya more than once, targeting Qaddafi on at least one occasion (and killing his adopted daughter Hannah). Libya was also held responsible for the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988 (though some recent accounts have questioned its culpability) and it had an active WMD development program and received substantial nuclear weapons technology from the illicit A. Q Khan network.
I guess those 'improved relations' with the United States are why President Obama has been almost silent in the face of the slaughter going on in Libya.

So was Walt duped? Is he just a tool? And by the way, did he visit the same country Michael Totten did?

Call me unimpressed with Walt's overwhelming brilliance. He's not - as we say in Boston - wicked smaht.

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At 11:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey carl,

it was your buddie, gw, who gave khaddafi a pass, when that wonderful dictator chose to end his wmd program.

and would obama saying anything really change the situation on the ground?

hey...maybe when the dictator falls, they can send in some special ops guy, and take out the mass murderer, who those wonderful scots let free

At 1:50 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

The Libyan dictatorship has shown its real self to the world that makes a mockery of Stephen Walt's protestations it was one of the more "tolerant" Arab tyrannies.

A lot of dead Libyans would disagree with Walt's assessment.



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