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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Recommended blog: Duck of Minerva

I've read with profit Professor of Political Science Rodger Payne from the University of Louisville for many years. I appreciated his kind remarks when I shut down Deep Blade Journal a couple of years ago. And this post in his blog, too, after I had challenged a conservative professor from Wisconsin. I rather miss those days of blogging. It doesn't seem the same to me now.

Anyway, Rodger is part of quite a lively group blog, Duck of Minerva. One of the authors there, Dan Nexon has up a splendid post called "All conventional wisom is not created equal." In it he takes on (via a recent Slate piece) some conventional wisdom about what constitutes faulty conventional wisdom. Just go there and read it.

I liked his last item actually carrying farther a particular point in the Slate piece by Jacob Weisberg: "Nuclear proliferation might be stabilizing!"

There is something that's sure to be seen as crazy in many quarters. The public drumbeat on Iran relations, for example, is that proliferation is a grave threat. Thus the prospect of an Iranian nuke--even if every bit of real public information says they aren't building one--generates unrestrained hyperbolic fear within America and its allies.

Not saying there are no dangers. However, Nexon has a very different angle about the less-public reaction to proliferation of policy makers within powerful nuclear states. Nexon writes, "States that actively oppose nuclear proliferation do so precisely because they worry" that they will be subjected to the "deterrent effects of nuclear weapons."
Nexon: Such states would, shockingly enough, rather not be deterred from engaging in force projection and various other forms of compellence.
I suppose I very much appreciate that we're no longer in the Bush years. Today there is a story out about how Vice President Biden will be "in charge of the administration's nuclear nonproliferation agenda, including President Obama's goal of securing vulnerable nuclear material around the world over the next four years, and efforts to convince Congress to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, which would ban new nuclear explosions."

That agenda has been almost unthinkable, maybe since 1993 (when it turned out to be vaporous). Certainly I'm all for it being as real as President Obama says it is:
President Obama: I state clearly and with conviction America's commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.
He's "not naive," though. In may not happen "in my lifetime," he says.

Indeed, the U.S. national security state--that desires an unfettered nuclear field in which to play--is a tough nut to crack.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Libya energy reserves on the table

Libya has 40 gigabarrels oil reserves, excellent stores of natural gas, and along with Iraq is among the few countries in the world with the potential for substantially increasing production. Some weeks ago it was reported that the Russians had been wooing Qaddafi:

Gazprom seeks to buy all of Libya's oil, gas exports
Russia's state-controlled gas giant seeks to expand presence in North Africa; By Polya Lesova, MarketWatch; Last update: 1:46 p.m. EDT July 10, 2008
NEW YORK (MarketWatch) -- Russia's state-controlled energy giant Gazprom is in negotiations to buy Libya's total export volume of gas, oil and liquefied natural gas at competitive prices, according to a statement Wednesday on Gazprom's Web site.

The news follows a meeting between Gazprom's CEO Alexei Miller and Libya's leader Moammar Gadhafi. Libya and Gazprom decided "to initiate the thematic negotiations on the purchase of the currently available hydrocarbon volumes from the Libyan party," said in a statement.

The two sides also agreed to establish a joint venture aimed at upgrading Libya's existing oil refining capacities and constructing new ones.
No wonder U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had the highest-level diplomatic meeting a U.S. official has had with that same Qaddafi, as reported in newspapers today, including in an AP release in the Bangor Daily News and this New York Times story:

Isolation Over, Libyan Leader Meets With Rice
TRIPOLI, Libya ? For the first time in more than half a century, a sitting American secretary of state is in Libya. Condoleezza Rice arrived here on Friday to meet with the man whom Ronald Reagan famously called the "mad dog of the Middle East."

But that was then. Ms. Rice, after waiting at the Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel here for an hour as the Ramadan sun set, finally got word that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi was ready to receive her at his Bab al Azizia residence ? the same compound bombed by American airstrikes in 1986 during the height of tensions with Libya.

Amid a swarm of cameras and reporters, she walked into the receiving room where Mr. Qaddafi, clad in a long, flowing white robe, purple and gold sash, and a green Africa brooch, stood waiting to greet her.

He didn?t shake her hand; instead, he put his hand against his heart in a gesture that North African men often use to greet women, then motioned for her to take a seat. It was a very different Libyan leader, in the eyes of Ms. Rice and the Bush administration, from the man who had bedeviled six American presidents over the past four decades.
Evidently despite the cultural misogyny, Qaddafi is a fan of Secretary Rice,
Qaddafi (to Al Jazeera last year): I support my darling black African woman. I admire and am very proud of the way she leans back and gives orders to the Arab leaders. ... Yes, Leezza, Leezza, Leezza... I love her very much.
The policy turn-around with respect to Libya is of course head scrambling. The fact that Rice had to claim the meeting was not just about energy (see also, THIS Bloomberg item) means that it was nearly 100% about energy and heading off the Russians.

It's interesting to go back twenty-two years and review the Reagan-era demonization of Libya and Qaddafi. The Reagan "mad dog" quote widely mentioned today was actually given in response to a question by Helen Thomas at an April 9, 1986 news conference. Here is the full exchange. Does not Reagan's verbiage have the familiar ring of justification for use of U.S. power against perceived Islamic threats despite the foreseeable loss of innocent life?

Libya and Terrorism
Q. Mr. President, do you have any solid evidence that Qadhafi is responsible for the recent acts of terrorism? And if you are contemplating major retaliation, won't you be killing a lot of innocent people? I'd like to follow up.

The President. Helen, we have considerable evidence, over quite a long period of time, that Qadhafi has been quite outspoken about his participation in urging on and supporting terrorist acts -- a kind of warfare, as he has called it. Right now, however, I can't answer you specifically on this other, because we're continuing with our intelligence work and gathering evidence on these most recent attacks, and we're not ready yet to speak on that. And any action that we might take would be dependent on what we learn. And so, I can't go further.

Q. Mr. President, I know you must have given it a lot of thought, but what do you think is the real reason that Americans are the prime target of terrorism? Could it be our policies?

The President. Well, we know that this mad dog of the Middle East has a goal of a world revolution, Moslem fundamentalist revolution, which is targeted on many of his own Arab compatriots. And where we figure in that, I don't know. Maybe we're just the enemy because -- it's a little like climbing Mount Everest -- because we're here. But there's no question but that he has singled us out more and more for attack, and we're aware of that. As I say, we're gathering evidence as fast as we can.
Five days later, on April 14, 1986, U.S. bombs rained down on Qaddafi's compound, the very one just visited by Rice, killing scores of civilians, including infants.

Five years ago when the Bush Administration first initiated policy reversal and rapprochement with Libya, I wrote a long piece for the old blog. Amazingly most of the links are still working there, and I reproduce it below. I think my work on this is quite an interesting contribution to placing U.S. policy toward both Iraq and Libya in the proper context. The main thrust of the piece is that the new Libya policy unveiled in late 2003 constituted a flip-flop of demons, where Saddam Hussein had occupied the role of favored dictator in 1986 and demon in 2003--an exact reversal of roles.

The tale that usually is told is that Qaddafi was cowed into giving up his weapons programs because he felt the pressure of what the U.S. had done in Iraq. Maybe, but that I believe is a minor part of the story that had the unintended consequence of providing to the public a view of the A. Q. Kahn WMD network out of Pakistan. The major part of the story is economic. Qaddafi needs outside investment, and international oil companies need tappable reserves. This was not unlike the situation with Iraq in 1986 when the Iraqgate commerce with Saddam ramped up, despite his use of chemical weapons. See below for the full story.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Or is it Kiss does Rice? Anyone else find that as unreal as I do?