During the presidential debate on national security, George Bush repeatedly asserted that his doctrine of unilateral preemptive aggression had forced Libya to disarm and helped expose Dr Khan's nuclear proliferation network.
Bush first began crowing about Libya's disarmament in his State of the Union Address back in January. "Colonel Gadhafi correctly judged that his country would be better off and far more secure without weapons of mass murder" Bush said, adding "no one can now doubt the word of America". But the fact is, Libya had already committed to unilateral disarmament and was negotiating with British and American officials well before Bush invaded Iraq.
Senator Kerry, who should have seen this coming, failed to challenge Bush on this point, which is somewhat surprising, given that Libya's disarmament actually had nothing to do with the attack on Iraq. Anyone familiar with the history of US-Libyan relations knows that Gadhafi had been pursuing better relations with the West for many years, and the decision to embrace the Libyan dictator had more to do with diversifying energy supplies to the West than disarming Libya.
According to Paul Kerr of the Arms Control Association, Libya was motivated to give up its weapons by the desire to end UN sanctions and restore profitable economic relations with the United States. "The invasion of Iraq does not appear to have been the decisive factor in Libya’s decision. But even if it was, this is at best a fortunate by-product of the war that does not provide a useful guide for future non-proliferation policy - the United States obviously cannot invade one country to scare another into disarming."
Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association and a prominent non-proliferation expert, has said that Libya's disarmament resulted from the combination of preventative diplomacy, a non-proliferation treaty, weapons inspections, the lifting of economic sanctions, and the provision of incentives rather than the threat of Bush's "Preemptive Strike Doctrine."
And Suh Jae Jung, a professor of politics at Cornell University and an expert on U.S. foreign policy has said, "There is a tendency in which people believe that the United States' power-based foreign policy made Libya surrender, but the fact is that it was negotiation and compromise between the two countries rather than unilateral power exertion."
As Cheong Wook Sik explains, the Libyan model of disarmament stands in stark contrast to the Bush doctrine and is clearly at variance with the methodology espoused by the neoconservative hawks in the Bush administration. In dealing with Gadhafi, Bush was willing to build trust through direct negotiations and trade off economic sanctions as an incentive to give up WMD. But with Iraq, Iran and North Korea, Bush has championed a hard-line, uncompromising approach based on threats and acts of military aggression. It is simply disingenuous to ascribe the successful disarmament of Libya to the utterly disastrous consequences of the attack on Iraq.
The discovery of Dr Abdul Khan's nuclear supermarket likewise had little to do with Bush and his crusading neocon warriors. Khan's operation was an open secret for years among intelligence officers and officials in Pakistan, the US and elsewhere. When the illicit trade in nuclear materials and technology came to light in August 2003, it was a major embarrassment for the Bush administration, which had made such a big fuss about non-existant WMD in Iraq, all the while oblivious to the nuclear proliferation activities of Dr Khan and his associates.