Saturday, March 05, 2011

Stephen Walt and Gaddafi's Libya (Zvi)

From Zvi:

Stephen Walt - who has done so much to promote the myth of "the Israel Lobby" - wrote the following after visitingTripoli in 2010.

"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." [http://walt.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2010/01/18/the_shores_of_tripoli]

Of course, Walt evidently stayed in a top-level hotel that caters to westerners, "toured Tripoli" for a few hours (with minders?) and met primarily with regime officials of the sort who monitor Washington politics. A few years before, Michael Totten described a very different set of impressions: [http://pajamasmedia.com/michaeltotten/2011/02/20/in-the-land-of-the-brother-leader-2]

Michael Moynihan visited Tripoli at around the same time as Walt, and his report has a lot more in common with Totten's than with Walt's. Moynihan also writes, quite openly, that the Libya trip that he took (with fellow journalists) was funded by the Qaddafi Foundation under the auspices of Saif al-Islam. He wrote:
"It’s not entirely clear why I am in Libya, although it would have been rude to refuse a trip funded by the generous and, according to their hired help, deeply misunderstood comrades of the Qaddafi Foundation. At the behest of Saif al-Qaddafi—Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi’s slick, London-educated son and dauphin—our group of journalists is being shuttled to the country in an effort to demonstrate a new Libyan openness and, it is implied, a future rather different from the past. Personally, I’m more interested in sneaking a glimpse at the world’s only Islamo-socialist personality cult."

So let's get back to Stephen Walt, who - unlike Moynihan - did not mention that the trip was funded, or how much he has been paid for his services by the Qaddafi regime:
"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... . Libya has also been a valuable ally in the “war on terror”... 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."

Rapproachment with Qaddafi was a "success story"? Qaddafi as a "valuable ally in the war on terror?" "Reform" going on in Libya? Well, we've all seen how much "reform" was really going on, and what a stellar "success story" it was for the US to coddle Qaddafi. What about Libya as a valuable ally in the war on terror? Was Walt swinging "1 for 3"?

Michael Totten wrote, in 2008, that "U.S. military officials believe 19 percent of foreign terrorists in Iraq come from Libya." [http://www.commentarymagazine.com/2008/01/30/libya’s-son/]
The unproven assertion about the purported Seifaddin Regiment in northern Iraq, and its Qaddafi sponsor, appears to trace back to an Anbar Awakening security chief named Col. Naief:
"Col. Jubair Rashid Naief, who also is a police official in Anbar province, said those attacks were carried out by the Seifaddin Regiment, made up of about 150 foreign and Iraqi fighters who slipped into the country several months ago from Syria.
Naief said the regiment, which is working with al-Qaida in Iraq, was supported by Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, 36, the eldest son of the Libyan leader."


To my knowledge, nobody has proven this particular accusation against Seif al-Islam Qaddafi, and the high percentage of "exported" Libyan terrorists in Iraq does not necessarily constitute direct evidence against Qaddafi's regime, so maybe this does not instantly confirm that Qaddafi was busily sponsoring terror in Iraq in 2008. But to single Libya out - as Walt does - as "a valuable ally of the US" in the war on terror is laughable. So that's "0 for 3."

So what was Walt doing in Libya, and how much was he paid by Qaddafi-affiliated institutions?

Walt was in Libya at the invitation of the Libyan "Economic Development Board." The EDB was launched by none other than Saif al-Islam, together with (apparently) Harvard professor Michael Porter. This is doubly interesting, because Porter is the founder of the Monitor Group and was responsible for introducing the Qaddafi regime to the Monitor Group.

The London Bureau Chief for Business Week wrote about the EDB and the Monitor Group in 2007, when Seif al-Islam and Michael Porter launched it:
"Saif al-Islam al-Qaddafi and Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter at a press conference on Feb. 22 after the launch of the Libyan Economic Development Board. Saif courted Porter, who is known for his work on competitiveness, for years before persuading him to take on the task of helping with economic reform in Libya. Porter brought in Monitor Group, which he co-founded, to help the Libyans with an analysis of the business environment. The Libyan Economic Development Board is intended to cut through Libya's dysfunctional politics and make economic reform happen." [http://images.businessweek.com/ss/07/03/0314_libya/source/2.htm]

"Qaddafi's son, Seif al Islam (Sword of Islam), is making a career of trying to reform what is by many measures one of the world's most backward economies. Now, thanks to his relationship with Porter and Monitor Group, a consulting firm with which Porter is affiliated, a roadmap for restructuring is emerging." [http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/feb2007/gb20070220_956124.htm]

Now, the Monitor Group is the organization that Qaddafi used to fabricate a positive impressions in the western media. Farah Stockman writes in the Boston Globe (March 2011):
"It reads like Libyan government propaganda, extolling the importance of Moammar Khadafy, his theories on democracy, and his “core ideas on individual freedom. 
But the 22-page proposal for a book on Khadafy was written by Monitor Group, a Cambridge-based consultant firm founded by Harvard professors. The management consulting firm received $250,000 a month from the Libyan government from 2006 to 2008 for a wide range of services, including writing the book proposal, bringing prominent academics to Libya to meet Khadafy “to enhance international appreciation of Libya’’ and trying to generate positive news coverage of the country.
As the crisis in Libya deepens, Monitor’s role in Libya has come under increasing scrutiny." [http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2011/03/04/local_consultants_aided_khadafy]

The LEDB was repeatedly used to engage western intellectuals in supposed "reform" projects, potentially generating positive press. According to the leaked Monitor Group document, "Project to Enhance the Profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi", academicians and other visitors were used by the regime:
"Visitors had the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with Libyan individuals including the Leader, Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, senior government officials, leading political scientists and academics, and prominent members of the business community.
Each visitor described how their visit challenged some of their pre-conceived notions about the country. Each individual articulated his or her desire to remain connected to Libya, to visit again, to meet the Leader again (or for the first time in some cases) in order to pursue their dialogue. All remained convinced that the role they were playing was to encourage Libya to continue on its path of increasing interaction with other nations, developing its economy to create greater prosperity for all Libyans, and finding a way for Libya to contribute productively to regional and global issues.
These visits also provided a unique and privileged account of conversations between Qadhafi and international thought-leaders. The conversations between Qadhafi and some of the most renowned and influential scholars and philosophers of recent history were deeply personal, congenial, and thought-provoking. The account of these conversations is extraordinarily valuable because it reflects aspects of the Leader that are little known to most outsiders, sheds valuable insight into governance in Libya, and informs a more profound and thoughtful understanding of Libya.
A number of the visitors delivered public lectures in Tripoli during their visits. These were all very well-attended with at least 200 people in the audience. There was active dialogue between the public and the speakers which often exceeded the time allotted for the lectures.Ultimately most visitors had the opportunity to meet a cross-section of Libyan people, an experience which each one of them acknowledged was meaningful.
Many of the visitors Monitor brought to Libya have individually briefed all levels of the United States government including specifically the President, Vice President, Heads of National Security and Intelligence as well as the Secretary of State.
To accompany this document we have assembled a binder containing the “Output and content of Phase 1”. Section 2 of this binder includes the materials associated with the visits to Libya of each individual...
Monitor undertook to work with the client to identify appropriate individuals. The client provided a list of preferred individuals which Monitor supplemented with additional visitors. In addition, over the course of the project Monitor developed an extensive list of high-caliber individuals who could visit Libya in the future. In the next phase of the project Monitor and the client should work closely to develop a strategy to further develop Libya’s international network. This requires jointly identifying relevant individuals of interest." [http://www.libya-nclo.com/Portals/0/pdf%20files/Monitor%203.pdf]).

The Monitor Group document explicitly links visits by foreign opinion-leaders with the campaign to polish Qaddafi's image abroad.

Walt is not directly named in the Monitor document; however, the document shows that the Libyan regime used the LEDB to bring high-profile academicians (like Walt) and others to Tripoli and attempted to use them to gain positive press for the regime and to do some lobbying on behalf of the regime. Further, Britain's Guardian newspaper quotes a Monitor Group letter to Qaddafi thug Abdallah al-Sanusi, discussing the effort:
"We will create a network map to identify significant figures engaged or interested in Libya today ... We will identify and encourage journalists, academics and contemporary thinkers who will have interest in publishing papers and articles on Libya," the letter claims." [http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2011/mar/04/lse-libya-anthony-giddens-gaddafi]

Walt was brought to Libya as part of a well-organized and well-funded propaganda campaign, and given Walt's position as a mainstreamer of conspiracy theories about Israel/Jews, it seems fairly obvious why Walt appealed to the Qaddafi regime.

The Arab Lobby at its best, eh? Walt, who has made a name for himself by creating sinister fictions about Israel supporters, allowed the lobbyists of a REAL dictatorship, led by a delusional and mass-murdering psychopath, to use him.

Lest one think that the LEDB was an organization given to largesse without expectation of some "quid pro quo", a document leaked by wikileaks contains a detailed report on discussions with Mahmoud Jibril, the LEDB's chairman. The document states:
"Jibril offered that the U.S. approaches relationships as economic and transactional, whereas Arab culture puts a premium on tribal ties in which gifts are given and expected, but not asked for or stipulated...  Jibril stressed that as an Arab, Sadat did not feel he needed to ask for anything because the U.S. should have perceived that he had offered something and reciprocated of its own accord." [http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/wikileaks-files/libya-wikileaks/8294883/HEAD-OF-LIBYAS-ECONOMIC-DEVELOPMENT-BOARD-U.S.-LIBYA-RELATIONS-NOT-JUST-ABOUT-OIL.html]

(Not only does this shed light on the expectations that the LEDB and the Qaddafis brought to the table when they funded something; it also sheds light on the manner in which the Qaddafis approach business and politics in general. You can't get anything done in Libya without bribing the Qaddafis and their cronies. I wonder why).

The Qaddafi regime has demonstrated again and again that they will do nothing without being paid or threatened. For example, when presented with requests to provide reparations for the assets abandoned by Libyan Jews, they tried to convince Libyan-Jewish Israelis to create a Libyan-funded political party. [http://www.israeltoday.co.il/NewsItem/tabid/178/nid/22686/Default.aspx]

So has Walt acknowledged his (evidently) Qaddafi-funded trip? And did he provide value in exchange for whatever he was paid? Is he being dishonest?

To my knowledge, Walt has not acknowledged any of this in his recent writings, nor has he acknowledged, in the light of subsequent event, his laughable assertions about the Qaddafi regime at the time. Just as importantly, Walt has not clarified how much he was paid for his Libya trip or for any other lectures, paid papers or other tasks completed for this or other Arab regimes.

Rather, Walt seems to conspicuously ignore his past contacts with the Libyan regime and its lobbyists. And today, he is of course on the side of the angels; on Feb 22, with the Libyan revolt under way, he was happy to trash the Libyan regime. But only a few weeks before, when he had written that he doubted that the Tunisian revolt would spread, where was this anti-Qaddafi fervor?

Martin Kramer, in FaceBook comments, writes about a Jacob Heilbrunn story:
"This piece by Jacob Heilbrunn is dishonest. "The efforts of the Bush administration to reach out to Gaddafi made sense," he writes, "but seeking to improve Gaddafi's image is another matter." And then he attacks Richard Perle. Well, Perle didn't write any articles praising Qaddhafi. Benjamin Barber, Joe Nye, Robert Putnam, and Stephen Walt did. Those liberal endorsements were worth gold." [http://www.facebook.com/martinkramer.page/posts/149336985125539]

Kramer cites Michael Moynihan, who was brought to Tripoli at around the same time as Walt, but who - unlike most of the visitors, saw the visit for what it was - "A Libyan Charm Offensive": [http://reason.com/archives/2010/02/22/a-libyan-charm-offensive]

H/t for the original information that Walt visited Qaddafi's Libya and returned to the west to promote rapprochement with the dictator: Martin Peretz. [http://www.tnr.com/article/tel-aviv-journal/84370/libya-saif-qaddafi-western-allies]