Hisham Matar has an interesting piece in today’s New York Times, “Seeing What We Want to See in Qaddafi.”
The writer suggests that Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi continues to rule Libya as a tyrant, disappearing his critics, and cultivating a climate of fear — particularly among those who might engage in public dissent.
But the writer also has real insight into what drove the Bush administration and Qaddafi to become partners:
Colonel Qaddafi deserves sole credit for Libya’s foreign policy U-turn. He has never found it necessary to devote himself to a single political ideology; his only consistent policy has been to guard his personal political survival. The United States and Britain understand this, but have only exploited it for their own myopic objectives. . .
I want Libya to reform — but that is not the highest priority in today’s climate.
Turning Syria is.
Bashar al-Assad and the clique of nine who surround him and are the real decision-makers inside Syria are also self-preservationist/realists. Some in this clique are modernist reformers and others are nefarious thugs, but they are all ultra-rational.
James Baker said in Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony a week ago that the single biggest failing of Bush’s current foreign policy strategy is a failure to deal with Syria and to draw that country away from Iran.
Reform should always be on the table of American negotiators — though NGOs are better at it than government administrators — but there are things that we can offer al-Assad and his backers to move them on a Libya-like course.
We need to drop our counter-productive obsessions with regime change and do a deal that offers Syria’s rationalists an arrangement that meets their needs and begins to turn our fortunes a more positive direction in the Middle East.
— Steve Clemons