Friday, January 23, 2009

Daffy Qaddafi

Yesterday, I was somewhat surprised to open up the New York Times and find an op-ed by none other than Muammar Qaddafi.I represented Libya in 11th grade Model UN; the country and it Rufus T. Firefly type leader hold a special place in my heart.
For me, the most surprising thing about the article is that it lacks the bizarreness characteristic of Qaddafi. This is a man who at different times has claimed alternately (and contradictorily) that AIDS a CIA created bio-weapon to exterminate Africans and that it is a "divine disease" sent to by Allah to protect Africa from the white man. In the op-ed, there's no material nothing stranger than Qaddafi calling his plan for a united Israel-Palestine state Isratine. Somewhat of a disappointment.
The New York Times is right to at least try to stir up debate on the subject of a solution to the Israel Palestine conflict, advocating a one state solution challenges a widely held orthodoxy on the subject. By why choose Muammar Qaddafi to say this? The Libyan strong man is far from the only person who holds this opinion. Why not have Tony Judt summarize his argument from the New York Review of Books?
It's easy to see why Gaddafi is an improper messenger. As one New York Times letter-writer sneered "the brutal dictator responsible for the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people, most of them Americans — would give advice on a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict". Actually, evidence of Qaddafi's involvement in that attack is incredibly sparse. Still, the point makes sense. Gaddafi is a dictator and has supported terrorism, including the Black September movement that perpetrated the massacre of Israeli athletes at the '72 Olympics. He has expelled 30,000 Palestinians from his country. Can he really be said to have either the interests of Israelis or Palestinians at heart?
As far as I can tell, this op-ed is part of the transition of Qaddafi from a anti-US dictator, which we find intolerable, to a pro-US dictator, which is ok. A pro-US dictator is accorded do respect in the media accords to any other world leader by our media. Remember Musharraff on the Daily Show? Qaddafi still oppresses his own people, but since him giving up tiny WMD program gave Bush a chance at what looked like an international success, the US is ready to regard him as "our son of a bitch". The media, it appears, is all too ready to play along.


dissentingopinion said...

I believe that most 'crazy' leaders are of two sorts: 1. Those who do not wield real power and are in fact puppets to behind the scenes power brokers. Or 2. those who look intentionally unpredictable for strategic reasons in the international arena. I think Qaddafi falls in the latter category.

I'm reminded of when John Yoo spoke at the Carnegie Council about meeting with Kim Jong-Ill during the Clinton administrations envoy. He said in private he was very cool and calculating.

Ewan Compton said...

That's interesting. I suppose this is because a truly irrational leader would necessarily self-destruct.
The first type sounds like a pretty excellent description of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Qaddafi clearly has some personal eccentricities (the all female body-guard core, for example), yet he has held onto power for since 1969, not the sign of a truly irrational person. He also changes his ideology based on what's fashionable (pan-Arabism, socialism, pan-Africanism), and has been very willing recently to become a pro-US leader, both signs that he's calculating. Seems like it's his version of what the Nixon team called "the Madman Strategy".