A deal with Libya: The pros and the Neocons
By TIMOTHY J. BURGER; MASSIMO CALABRESI
The Bush Administration chalked up a major foreign-policy victory when the President announced that Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi had agreed to dismantle his secret — and surprisingly advanced — unconventional-weapons program in exchange for improved relations with the West.
Intelligence officials say they expect Libya's cooperation will help them further unravel the shadowy world of illicit-weapons supply lines — which is partly why they are disclosing little information on which countries have aided Libya's program. The deal provides "huge intelligence ... opportunities," said a senior U.S. intelligence official. "We'll be pursuing those opportunities."
The Administration is making the case that the Iraq war scared Libya into submission, a politically handy retort to Democratic charges that the Iraq adventure has been a mistake.
Bush's aides have pointedly noted that Gaddafi initiated contact on March 19, as the first salvo of missiles rained down on Baghdad. And as the search for weapons of mass destruction continues to come up virtually empty in Iraq — top U.S. weapons inspector David Kay says he may quit as head of the effort — Bush can at least claim credit for having neutralized one nation's WMD threat.
Libya expects to get sanctions relief and international acceptance as a result of the deal. But the potential American concessions are troubling to neoconservatives in the Administration who scorn deals with dictators.
From negotiations with North Korea to an inspections pact with Iran, Bush has repeatedly sided with the moderate wing of the Republican foreign-policy establishment over the past few months. The Libya deal further suggests that Bush may be tacking to the center to protect himself against trouble in Iraq during an election year.
Copyright © 2003 Time Inc.