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Archive: 21 December 2003

Out Of The Cradle

As someone who studied 20th Century geopolitics in college, I’m quite fascinated by the latest news from Libya, which I had long assumed would only change course when Gadhafi left office (one way or the other).  To see a leader—any leader—take such steps is quite frankly astonishing; I feel like next thing will be Kim Jong-Il announcing that the whole nuclear-weapons inspection problem there was a big misunderstanding and he’d really like to get it all cleared up so McDonald’s can start opening some Pyongyang branches.

I’m even more fascinated by two things that will probably raise my Total Information Awareness rating for even mentioning them:

  1. The willingness of the Bush administration to support IAEA inspections in Libya (and Iran) when it denounced them as being useless in Iraq.  What’s the difference, I wonder?
  2. It would appear that, given enough patience, economic sanctions do in fact work, contrary to the administration’s claims when building a case for attacking Iraq.  You have to be in it for the long haul, but in the end they pay off.  After all, it seems that the sanctions imposed on Libya in the late Eighties were a motivating force in Gadhafi’s recent decisions.  Not the threat of attack, which Libya hasn’t faced from the U.S. since Reagan left office.  Just plain old exclusion from the global economy.  (Dissenters might point to Cuba as proof that this isn’t true, except Cuba is only excluded from the American economy, not the global economy.)

I’m not seeking to excuse Libya’s role in the downing of Pan Am 103, but then I could hardly do so: they admitted to it earlier this year, and explained their motivations.  Whether or not I agree with them is beside the point I’m trying to make here.  The real point, at least to me, is that Libya is on a course that I could hardly have imagined a week or two ago.  It gives me a smidgen of hope that humanity might be a little more grown-up than I tend to believe.

My deepest wish is that this starts a change in the way diplomacy is conducted in the future, and how nations choose to deal with the skeletons in their closets.  Right next to that is my hope that America responds to these moves positively and with a willingness to negotiate, to compromise if necessary.  We have to leave behind poisonous concepts like “unconditional surrender” and start working with leaders who want to act responsibly.  Given the increasing ease with which massively destructive weapons can be created, the future of humanity could very well depend on it.

December 2003
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