The fact is that almost everyone has dirty hands. Everyone: politicians (even “statesmen”), banks, governments, international organizations, newspapers, universities, scholars—they are now mortified to (have to) admit that they made common cause with Muammar Qaddafi and his favored son Saif.
Thursday’s Financial Times carries a half-page article by Michael Peel on some of Qaddafi’s intimates: Tony Blair, the London School of Economics (LSE) and Political Science, the Carlyle Group (America’s most politically wired investment ensemble), the great revolutionary democrat Hugo Chavez, etc. Sir Howard Davies, the director of the LSE, identified by Peel as “a former unpaid adviser to the Libyan Investment Authority,” was quoted as having “shared the students’ revulsion at the recent violence and gross violations of human rights in Libya” and regretting “the association of the school’s name with [Saif Al Islam, the colonel’s son and an LSE alumnus] and the actions of the Libyan regime.” Saif had paid down £300,000 of a £1.5 million pledge to the institution’s North Africa program.
Sir Howard is not a very alert person if it is just now that he has recognized how bloody and tyrannical were the circumstances under which the people of Libya have lived for decades. He is a liar caught in a trap of his own making.
LSE, which used to turn out African dictators educated in the dogmatics of socialism (it was Pat Moynihan who observed that the undeniable failure of the newly independent African states can be traced to the school’s socialist professors), is now a center of yet another political fashion, and it is Islamism. London is the intellectual capital of the worldview in Europe. But taking money from the Qaddafis might have been thought of as an almost anti-Islamist act since the clan rules with an unmistakeable hostility to religious authority. Actually, quite like the way Saddam Hussein governed in Iraq—until, that is, he needed Mohammed’s faithful to protect him from the Americans.
We’ve already seen how, only a year ago, Stephen Walt played the patsy for Colonel Qaddafi, writing in Foreign Policy that his “own view (even before I visited) is that the improvement of U.S. Libyan relations is one of the few (only?) success stories in recent U.S. Middle East diplomacy...”
Overall, the remarkable improvement in U.S.-Libyan relations reminds us that deep political conflicts can be resolved without recourse to preventive war or “regime change.” One hopes that the United States and Libya continue to nurture and build a constructive relationship, and that economic and political reform continues there. (I wouldn’t mind seeing more dramatic political reform—of a different sort—here too.) The United States could use a few more friends in that part of the world.
Walt’s grasp of political and social realities has not heightened since he wrote that paean to Qaddafi’s Libya. On January 16, Walt wrote also in Foreign Policy about “Why the Tunisian revolution won’t spread.”
In fact, the history of world revolution suggests that this sort of revolutionary cascade is quite rare, and even when some sort of revolutionary contagion does take place, it happens pretty slowly and is often accompanied by overt foreign invasion. … The velvet revolution in Easter Europe are a partial exception, but mostly because the Soviet Union’s Eastern Europe satellites were all dependent on the threat of Soviet invasion to keep their artificial regimes in power. Once the common keystone of Soviet power was no longer credible, however, all of these dominos could in fact fall down in a row.
But that’s not the case in the Arab world. Although most Arab governments are authoritarian, they are also all independent and depend on a slightly different mix of political institutions and measures to keep the rulers in power. The fact that Ben Ali ultimately mismanaged a challenge and was driven from power does not mean that other Arab leaders won’t be able to deflect, deter, or suppress challenges to their rule.
There are three other reasons why the Tunisian example is unlikely to lead to similar upheavals elsewhere. First, as Timur Kuran and others have shown, the actual revolutionary potential of any society is very difficult to read in advance, and a rising revolutionary wave often depends on very particular preferences and information effects within society. Put differently, whether a genuine upheavel breaks out and gathers steam is a highly contingent process. Second, Tunisia is an obvious warning sign to other Arab dictatorships, and they are bound to be especially vigilant in the months ahead, lest some sort of similar revolutionary wave begin to emerge. Third, Tunisia’s experience may not look very attractive over the next few weeks or months, especially if the collapse of the government leads to widespread anarchy, violence and economic hardship. If that is the case, then restive populations elsewhere may be less inclined to challenge unpopular leaders, reasoning that “hey, our government sucks, but it’s better than no government at all.”
Smart man, this Walt! But spread, the revolution did, to Egypt even before it went elsewhere, which now makes it almost everywhere in the Arab world. Barely a month later, Walt had to admit in Foreign Policy, the journal that routinely carries his enormous mistakes in fact and in judgement, “What I got wrong about the Arab revolutions and why I’m not losing sleep over it.” But his was not just an evaluative error. It was a basic misunderstanding of Egyptian realities: “I underestimated the degree of internal resentment” in Egypt, which is the basic fact about Egypt, isn’t it? This is like a doctor saying, “I thought it was a common cold. I’m sorry; it turned out to be pneumonia.” The physician, if a person of conscience, however, did lose some sleep over his bungle, as Walt is proud to tell us he did not. Apparently, Arab life is cheap not only to the collapsing regimes but also to this Kennedy School professor. One thing is for sure, and it is that there’s no wisdom in taking his classes.
Joseph S. Nye, a Harvard colleague of Walt’s at the K-School (and a sort-of former colleague of mine), earlier this month published an insightful piece in TNR Online weighing the extent to which Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and other Internet forums affected events in Egypt. Nye is an expert on “soft power,” and he argues that “some aspects of the information revolution help the small, but some help the already large and powerful. Size still matters.” He is right on this.
And sometimes he is wrong, very wrong. His previous appearance in the magazine (December 10, 2007) was in a “Tripoli Diarist” after sitting with Qaddafi in his big tent. Actually, I hadn’t remembered that Nye had written for TNR ever until someone called to my attention an article in Mother Jones last Friday, written by Siddhartha Mahanta and David Corn, in which Nye said that he had been paid to travel to Libya by a consulting company working for the Libyan government. (In fact, my guess is that I’d never known or noticed that he had been in our pages. He’s not exactly part of our intellectual crowd, and we’re not part of his. And, anyway, I don’t think “soft power” is such a big idea.)
In his 2007 piece, Nye fell for Qaddafi’s con and tried to push it in our columns:
Where once he had tried to bully and even overthrow governments to his south, now he is hosting peace talks on Darfur. Where once he sought weapons of mass destruction, now he has abandoned his nuclear program … Qaddafi, in other words, seems to have become interested in soft power—the art of projecting influence through attraction rather than coercion … And the fact that he took so much time to discuss ideas--including soft power—with a visiting professor suggests that he is actively seeking a new strategy.
Notice also his rapture about the dictator’s sudden interest in soft power.
But there’s more. And this relates to Saif Al Islam Al Qaddafi, the heir apparent to the bloody dictator’s seat of power. Just to remind you, here are a few choice quotations from his father:
“There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet.”
“Those inciting are very few in numbers and we have to capture them. Others have to stay at home. They have guns, they feel trigger-happy and they shoot especially when they are stoned on drugs.”
“There must be a world revolution which puts an end to all materialistic conditions hindering woman from performing her natural role in life and driving her to carry out man’s duties in order to be equal in rights. “
“All African nations look up to Libya, all the rulers of the world look up to Libya. Protesters are serving the devil, they want to humiliate you.”
“Muammar Gaddafi is the leader of the revolution, I am not a president to step down. This is my country. Muammar is not a president to leave his post, Muammar is leader of the revolution until the end of time.”
Of course, these have nothing to do with Nye, or with Saif’s LSE doctoral dissertation which, so to speak, stands alone. Finished in 2007, it is titled “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratization of Global Government Institutions: From ‘Soft Power’ to Collective Decision-Making?” Do you want to read it? Here it is in its entirety, all 429 pages of it. I haven’t read it all. In fact, I’ve read maybe 90-100 pages spread throughout the volume, so not that much, but quite enough to say that this was not written by Saif Qaddafi. And, if it was, I’ll eat my yarmulke. As it happens, I know a scholar of Arab politics and history who was courted by one of Saif’s minions to do what needed to be done. My informant was repelled, and repelled the request, which came with an offer. The thesis is richly inspired by Joe Nye’s work. This I know from the hour and a half I spent with it. This could be an instance of schizophrenia: one life scholarly and portentous; another criminal, mass murder criminal.
This trend over the past decade toward collective decision-making approaches has been particularly evident in the development of multi-stakeholder partnerships in the UN system. I argue that this development reflects the failure of governments and existing IGOs to deal with the new challenges of managing global issues which are deeply interconnected and impact a range of stakeholders across multiple borders. …
This new environment is characterised by fundamental changes in the international system, heightening the demand for democratic reform of global governing structures. The first change is the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc countries, leading to questions regarding the appropriateness of a UN shaped by post-World-War practicalities and sensibilities. The second is the emergence of the United States as the single dominant world military and economic power, and the argument that there is a growing influence of ‘Westernisation’ and ‘Americanisation’ embodied in the political and economic aspects of global governing institutions. Third, there are the universal globalisation processes in the world today that lead to a huge convergence of economies, cultures and civilizations. Globalisation calls the existing state-centric conception of world politics into question … There are new challenges, enemies, and threats that the current system of governance is unable to cope with. The new dilemmas that we are experiencing today require a new approach. …
In this thesis, I present for discussion the Collective Management approach in which the three sectors of society—government, business and civil society—are allocated equal and formal decision-making rights through voting, and that these three sectors work together in a multi-level system of governance at the national, regional and global levels. The three sectors of the tripartite, multi-level system would then share responsibility for three important activities of global governance: 1) setting the criteria of global governance, i.e. the codes and standards of conduct, 2) implementing these standards, and 3) supervising this implementation, which includes the evolution of enforcement mechanisms. This results in what I term the ‘3x3=3’ system of international governance.
Anyway, Dr. Qaddafi also thanks Nye profusely:
I would also like to acknowledge the benefit from comments I received on early drafts of the thesis from a number of experts with whom I met and who consented to read portions of the manuscript and provide advice and direction, especially Professor Joseph Nye.
Now, parents are not axiomatically responsible for their children, so teachers are certainly not axiomatically responsible for their students. In contrast to the extravagant thanks from student to teacher, Nye admitted to Mother Jones that he’d read only one chapter of the dissertation and “found it intelligent.” What’s very clear is that Nye has not behaved at all intelligently or, for that matter, ethically in his dealings with Libya. But perhaps there is a saving grace: Unlike Walt, Nye strikes me as one who would lose sleep over his rehabilitation labors for Qaddafi and Son, gangsters extraordinaire.
Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief emeritus of The New Republic.