Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Progress in Libya and its relevance to Israel's security 

Via Glenn, Gateway Pundit has a round-up of positive developments in Libya, and the continuing thaw in Libyan-American relations. The Libyans are clearly campaigning for diplomatic recognition from the United States, loudly proclaiming that the two countries are on the verge of exchanging ambassadors. Richard Lugar, fresh from his victory lap in Morocco, visited Libya this week and reportedly held talks with Colonel Muammar Gaddafi over the restoration of relations, so there may be truth to this claim. The Bush administration clearly sanctioned Lugar's visit, but made clear that he was not going as the administration's "representative." No matter. Lugar is the "highest-profile" American ("rank" not being a relevant criterion when describing Senators) to visit Libya in an official capacity (or perhaps any capacity) in decades.

One commenter on the Gateway Pundit post asserted that the "[t]he truest test of Libya's transformation will be when they join their fellow Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan, in establishing full diplomatic relations with Israel.(not hardly likely.)". This strikes me as a profoundly unrealistic standard. Like it or not, the more "democratic" an Arab country gets, the less likely it will be to establish ties with Israel, at least over the short run. Arabs, in the main, hate Israel, and Arab voters will not reward representatives that go out of their way to break Israel's isolation. If near-term diplomatic recognition of Israel is the measure of success, we should halt all our efforts to foster representative government in the Arab world.

Of course, one hopes that the opening of the Arab political system will eventually open the minds of Arabs toward the minority tribes in their region (Jews, Kurds, Druze and so forth), but that liberalism will not immediately follow democracy. It may take decades.

Libya, though, is a long way from becoming a democracy, and still builds its foreign policy around the interests of its ruling family. Ironically, it may be more likely to recognize Israel while the Gaddafis remain in power. For at least 18 months there have been subtle reports in the press of contacts between Israel and Libya. We should not expect full diplomatic recognition to come from this thaw (although that is possible), but Israel's security benefits even if Libya merely cools the anti-Israel rhetoric and cuts off the money to the terrorists, both of which it appears to have done.

Separately, I hereby predict that Richard Lugar will be the next Republican Secretary of State.


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