How (Not) to Stop a Rogue Regime: The Case of Libya

How (Not) to Stop a Rogue Regime: The Case of Libya

One might forgive Middle Eastern and African dictators for finding a great deal of confusion in the messages they receive these days from the West. How would the West -- that part of the world that loudly proclaims its devotion to human rights, due process of law and democratic freedoms -- respond to a government-ordered detention, framing and torture of half-a-dozen visiting medical workers? The answer, of course, came through from Libya last week, and was heralded as a major victory for European diplomacy.

The West, as it has done for centuries, is speaking loudly to the developing world. But the volume does not signify clarity. The intended message is "cooperate and you will be rewarded." But it could just as easily be read as, "the more egregious your actions, the more you will gain from us."

Last week, five Bulgarian nurses and one Palestinian doctor finally left the clutches of Moammar Gadhafi's Libya after a travesty of justice by the regime was generously rewarded by Europe. The workers had been imprisoned, tortured and twice sentenced to death by a Libyan court. They stood accused of a crime they plainly did not commit. Libyan authorities charged them with deliberately infecting 438 children with AIDS as part of a plot by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad. Most experts believe the children, 56 of whom have already died, were victims of lax standards and incompetence in the Libyan health care system. Exiled Libyans have a more sinister story to tell. They believe the Gadhafi regime purposely infected them. (More on that in an upcoming column.)

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