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Libya: Pariah to partner?

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Yesterday, in Tripoli, British Prime Minister Tony Blair shook hands with Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi in a move that may be seen as either forgiving terrorism or helping to fight it.

Truth be told, I am sympathetic and understanding toward those who are cynical about Gaddafi’s compliance and the West’s willingness to accept it. How, they say, can we overthrow a leader in one country, one who apparently didn’t have weapons of mass destruction, only to greet and fete another Middle Eastern tyrant?

I’m not going to segue into the issue of WMDs (my view is that they were cached in Syria, or that Saddam’s scientists misled him about the state of his weapons program), but one thing is clear: When the former “mad dog” of the Middle East announced that he would dismantle his country’s nuclear programme under American, British and United Nations supervision, he was essentially stating how impressed he was with the overthrow of Saddam. Impressed – and very anxious.

The moral grounds on which to improve and eventually normalize relations with Gaddafi cannot and should not be understated. The Libyan leader sponsored terrorism and has blood on his hands. He has been an uncompromising strongman who would not back down over his “third way” throughout more than 30 years in power. Are we indeed willing to dishonor the victims of his terror just to gain an ally in our fight against Al-Qaeda’s terrorism? Perhaps. But who ever said that the realities of geopolitics were fair? Compromises have to be made that fit the mold of contemporary concerns.

Al-Qaeda and Islamofascist terror are a worse threat than the Soviets ever were. As wonderful as it was to see the U.S.S.R. crumble, one almost pines for the days of the Cold War when compared to the terror everyone now faces from jihad crusaders.

Gaddafi has only hinted at helping the democratic world fight this global terrorist menace, plus he has acknowledged the horror of the 1988 PanAm jet bombing by paying compensation to all of the 270 victims’ families. Bush had the right idea when he stated in a letter that he sent to the Colonel that there was a “gradual normalization” of U.S. relations with Libya, but we remain cautious. It is right that, for now, Libya remains listed among the countries that sponsor terrorism. It’s one thing for Gaddafi to say that he will cooperate – now the onus is on him to prove it.

However, dialogue is a must. If Gaddafi feels spurned, what’s to keep him from reverting back to his old ways? Tony Blair initiated this dialogue; it was a brave move and he should be lauded for it. Blair, Bush, the European Union and Asian democracies should all make clear to Gaddafi that the way forward now is for him to institute democratic reforms in Libya. It was not over nothing when those who champion democracy scoffed when the U.N. let Libya chair its panel on Human Rights.

Blair said after the yesterday’s talks, “In reaching out the hand of partnership, we do not forget the past [emphasis mine] – but we do try in the light of genuine change to move beyond it.” In short, that’s all we in the West can do.

Libya – from pariah to partner? It can only be good.

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  • http://www.viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    Good post. I agree with you completely, first of all in that we have very traditionally been willing to ally ourselves with nations who we later had differences with, or vice versa.

    Should we have allied ourselves with the USSR during WWII? They murdered more of their own people than the Nazis did! But desperate situations sometimes necessitate such alliances.

    The other thing which is important is that, when we DEMAND change from a rogue nation, then actually get it, should we snub them? Sounds like a formula for failure to me.

    Rather, as you say, we need to respond in a positive manner and welcome their change of behaviour, if not heart. In this way, we reward rogue nations for actually joining the mainstream and doing the right thing rather than shouting at them to change then punching them when they do as we ask.

    Thanks. :-)

    David

  • Sandra Smallson

    Yes, I strangely find myself agreeing with you too. But then again if they had decided to attack Libya, I would have been in full support as well.

    Though we must remember that the Mad dog Gadaffi had been as quiet as a mouse for many years. Sadaam and Osama taking over his mantle. He probably feared the worst and since HE extended the hand of negotiation and it seems to be working out, there is no need for violence in this situation.