Random musings from a libertarian, tech geek...
In some correspondance w/ a thoughtful - albeit quite lefty - reader, the subject of Libya's nuclear capitulation popped up as we were discussing this Charles Krauthammer piece:
Here, alas, I consider my colleague just plain wrong. Sanctions, his son's political views, his friends, whatever, had a chance to work on Qadaffi for nearly 20 years. With the ONLY progress being Qadaffi's towards getting nukes. In fact, the last few years was precisely when Qadaffi made the most progress towards securing his WMD - during the Clinton adminstration.
For example, when the UN lifted it's sanctions against Libya in '99 - a policy which ostensibly demonstrated some good will towards Libya, it boosted Qaddafi's weapons programs:
It's oft noted in the blogosphere, the Qadaffi began this final, and most fruitful round of negotiations precisely when the pre-war buildup against Iraq reached its peak and the negotiations reached their "breakthrough conclusion" a scant few days after Saddam was pulled out of his spider hole. The product of 20 years of moral suasion? Or of a few months and some rather direct cause and effect? In diplomacy - particularly of the nuclear sort - there are very very few coincidences.
But, don't take my word for it, let's look into the Horse's mouth:
There are "moral suasion" threads that were alive during those 20 years - no question. As with any complex situation, there are hundreds of factors at play and those threads made some contribution. However, the evidence is pretty powerful that Iraq was the straw that broke the camel's back.
My colleague contends that forceful threats, in the international scene, actually backfire -
This is a variation of the Cycle of Violence argument. The contention - others are violent / aggressive because we make them that way. The cycle gets initiated due to "idiotic" people. The prescription - we, unilaterally, extend an olive branch & trust that others will adopt more peaceful intentions as dialog opens up.
The problem is that this prescription just plain fails when rubber meets the road. At the extreme, it's called appeasement. The Clinton / North Korea travesty where Kim Jong Il blatantly lied about stopping his nuke program in order to get an aid package from Clinton is perhaps the capstone, recent example.
The alternative model to the Cycle of Violence is the Logic of Deterrence. One must acknowledge that in the real world, violence can bear fruit for its instigator (for both Good and Evil ends - for ex., Kim Jong Il got a juicy aid package out of Clinton). Consequently, the incentive for violence is a universal, tragic aspect of the Human Condition. And hence, the cycle is inevitable. If the US magically didn't exist, N. Korea / Libya / Pakistan / Iraq would still have a strong interest to get their grubby hands on nukes - Kim, for ex., would love to fly a DPRK flag over Seoul.
Our volition has some influence w.r.t. how fast the cycle spins BUT, the Logic of Deterrence provides us with (semi-)stable Nash Equilibrium points we can drive towards. Yes, it will increase tension in the short run but the solution spectrum isn't "zero vs. some tension." The choice instead is between "more tension now + less tomorrow vs. some tension now." Navigating this is tricky and requires some skill, for sure, but it isn't something we can shirk because the tension makes us uncomfortable or do unfriendly deeds like dropping a JDAM on someone.
I hate to be pithy, but I'm sure that Qaddafi, Kim, and Hussein certainly liked Clinton far more than Bush. The person being deterred is rarely happy about the situation. It was precisely under Clinton's watch that they made the largest leaps towards fulfilling their ambitions. We can change course and have Europe and the UN love us and have DPRK, Pakistan, Libya, and Al Qaeda quietly go back to business as usual. The policy that minimizes hurt feelings is not the same one that produces results.
At the end of the day, even the most ardent hawk recognizes that proper policy is a mix of both tools. Where I think so many leftists get it wrong is that so few accept that violence is a legitimate tool and so many assume that violence is the "conservative's" tool of first choice.