April 4, 2006: Poster of Libyan Leader Moammar Khadafy in Tripoli, Libya.
"A 2007 Trip to Libya"
Op-Ed, Boston Globe
April 12, 2011
Author: Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor
Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security
Joseph S. Nye, Jr., wrote this letter to the editor in response to the Boston Globe April 11, 2011, editorial, "Yes, Harvard Chief Should Scold Profs Who Worked for Khadafys."
YESTERDAY’S EDITORIAL "Yes, Harvard chief should scold profs who worked for Khadafys" criticizes me for a consulting trip to Libya in 2007. How quickly the newspaper forgets that at the time, Moammar Khadafy had given up his nuclear weapons and his support of terrorism. The US government believed he was serious about reform, which is why Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also visited Tripoli. For those of us who study power, and who try to promote change, it would hardly make sense to deal only with admirable democrats.
I was hired by the Monitor Group to go to Libya (as I publicly disclosed) to try to advance the prospect of reform. I reported in an article in The New Republic at the time that Khadafy was an "autocrat who has shown little respect for human rights" (a subject that I raised with him in our conversation). I wrote in 2007 that it was too soon to know if he had changed, but "one thing about Khadafy, however, has not changed: Even as he takes a softer approach to the exercise of power abroad, he remains a domineering figure at home." I hardly think this burnished his image, as some have charged.
It is possible, however, that the mere presence of Harvard professors bolstered his confidence and determination to remain in power. If so, I regret such an unintended consequence of my visit, since I am on record supporting his overthrow and agree with President Obama's actions. But I suspect that for all Harvard's self-importance (which the Globe editorial echoes), there are more significant causes of Khadafy's intransigence today than the visit of a professor four years ago.
Joseph S. Nye Jr., Lexington
For more information about this publication please contact the Belfer Center Communications Office at 617-495-9858.
Full text of this publication is available at:
For Academic Citation: