Thursday, August 19, 2004


I think I tried to make this point before, but The New Republic does a better job than me.
There is little doubt that Libya's surrender of its nuclear ambitions has made the world safer. Even human rights advocates like Representative Tom Lantos encourage deeper ties with Tripoli to ensure that Libya does not resume its WMD program. "I'm strongly in favor of moving ahead with normalization. It's clearly in our national interests," Lantos told me. But, while the achievement is to be celebrated, the quick rush to reward Qaddafi, an unpredictable and vicious dictator, has cast further doubt on the White House's commitment to one of the pillars of its post-September 11 foreign policy: democratic reform in the Middle East...

Bush has hardly been shy about touting his democratization efforts. Last November, in perhaps his most significant foreign policy speech, the president cast aside six decades of American commitment to stability in the region. Instead, he announced that democratic reform in the Arab world "must be a focus of American policy." After the speech, White House spokesman Scott McClellan described advancing freedom and democracy as "a central element of our national security strategy." And, at the June nato summit in Turkey, a day after Iraq's new government assumed control in Baghdad, Bush again called for democratic change across the Middle East, urging Arab nations to "recognize the direction of the events of the day."

Yet, while Bush champions reform, Libya's massive human rights violations have not retarded Washington's drive toward normalizing relations with Tripoli. "I haven't seen the U.S. emphasize that they want to see progress on human rights," said one analyst with a leading human rights group. "They're too busy rejoicing [over] the encouraging signals on weapons." Adds one Capitol Hill lobbyist, "They're not making it the centerpiece of their discussions. The most important thing for Bush in Libya is that [Qaddafi] gave up WMD. I guess human rights were the price."
Bush can't have it both ways. Why did we go into Iraq? If it was to protect ourselves from WMDs, then it was a mistake: perhaps a mistake made in good faith, but a mistake nevertheless. If we happened to do good while there and overthrow an evil dictator, fine. But that is not U.S. policy. As demonstrated by our Libyan policy, the U.S. message to the citizens of the Middle East is clear: we will let you live in dictatorships, we will let your citizens be tortured, we will let your dissidents rot in jail cells - as long as your government makes our citizens a little safer.

UPDATE: My previous thoughts on Libya here - scroll down for all three posts. I think this is the best point I've made on this blog - I think the second of those posts is the best. (The best posts on this blog are the first post, and this one, both by Goldberg.)
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