Ideology and Power in Libyan Foreign Policy

Ideology and Power in Libyan Foreign Policy with Reference to Libyan-American Relations from the Revolotion to the Lockerbie Affair

By: Dr. Younis Ali Lahwej

PhD Thesis
Department of Politics
University of Reading, UK
Dr. Younis Ali Lahwej
September 1998

Abstract and Summary:

This thesis examines Libyan-American relations from the Libyan
revolution in September 1969 to the Lockerbie affair. This relationship
is complex and is characterised by conflict and mistrust on both sides.
However, this relationship has passed through distinct periods which can
be described as testing; accommodation, and reconciliation. 
         This study seeks to explore the nature of Libyan-American
relations and analyses the causes of their conflict. It is a critical
study and highlights the main and fundamental aspects of the conflict:
ideology and Qaddafi's leadership. These two factors have in turn been
influenced by the historical experience of Libya which was one of
Western domination alongside attempts by Libyan nationalists to break
free from such domination. The heroic leadership of Libyan political
leaders, war heroes and the ideology of Nasserism had a substantial
influence on Qaddafi's view and policy towards the West in general and
America in particular. Qaddafi's attempts to put Libya onto the world
stage led this research to examine state power, position and role in
world politics in order to establish whether Libya's capabilities -
measurable capabilities - played a primary role in establishing the
course of Libyan international relations. Measurable capabilities are
explored in comparison to Libya's neighbours and other Middle Eastern
actors. It was also necessary to examine how far immeasurable power
capabilities such as Qaddafi's Leadership in terms of charisma and
popularity and his ideology were factors in the determination of Libyan
power. One particular feature of this thesis is that it has attempted to
analyse the quality of Qaddafi's leadership and has set out to establish
whether Qaddafi has been a charismatic or a popular leader or both or
whether his real power lies in the structure of Libyan power in the 'era
of masses'.
         The study explores Libyan ideology and its implementation: Arab
unity, Islam, neutrality and non-alignment are fully examined and
critically studied. The concept of Libyan Arab unity, Qaddafi's
continuous effort to seek Arab unity and his experiences had an impact
upon the direction that Libyan foreign relations have taken over many
decades. The other part of Libyan ideology, Islam, has been radically
incorporated into Libyan foreign policy to the extent that America
identified it with danger. In addition, the policies of neutrality and
non-alignment are progressively studied in connection with Libyan-Soviet
relations. Thus, the study focuses on Libya's balanced neutrality
between national interests and ideology. The thesis also examines the
means of Libyan ideology: oil and armaments. Oil is analysed as an
instrument for power. Through oil prices increases and bargaining with
oil companies, Libya asserted a status and leverage in its relations
with the West. However, oil has not been only a power to Libya, America
has sought to exert pressure on Libyan oil capability by imposing
unilateral sanctions. Similarly, Libyan armaments and military policy
have been radically applied. The stockpile of military hardware and
exporting of arms to anti-American radical countries and national
liberation movements played an important role in the deterioration of
Libyan-American relations. However, the major cause of American alarm
was Qaddafi's support of radical groups world-wide, Idi Amin and
military involvement in Chad. The reasons for Libyan military
involvement in Chad, the military operations and the American response
are critically analysed and illustrated by maps.
         The Libyan ideology and its radical implementation are met with
an equally radical ideology by America and therefore conflict and
collision became a pattern of Libyan-American relations. President
Reagan's radicalism in international relations, such as his policy
towards the Soviets, radical countries and 'terrorism' left Libya alone
facing coercive diplomacy, including the use of military force. American
policy aimed to change the leadership in Libya, or change Qaddafi's
international behaviour. Eventually, a change of Libyan foreign policy
direction began to take shape after Libya's military experience in Chad,
the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Gulf War. The change of
American administration to President Bush reduced the pressure on Libya,
despite the previous Regean administration's row over potential Libyan
chemical weapons capability. This study examines the effects of Reagan's
coercive diplomacy on Libya, its credibility and its legacy. It also
explores the approaches that were taken by his previous administrations
under presidents Nixon, Ford and Carter, and the results of these
approaches on the development of Libyan-American relations. Finally, the
thesis focusses on the outstanding issue in Libyan-American relations:
the Lockerbie affair. The circumstances surrounding the affair, its
implications for Libya, its legal and political aspects, the Libyan
method of dealing with it as well as regional and international
responses are all examined and intellectually debated.
         The ultimate purpose of this thesis is to contribute some
suggestions as to how to amend Libyan-American relations in a way in
which both parties emerge satisfactorily and without losing face; to
bridge the gap in their understanding of each other and provide ground
for each to achieve compromise; and finally to bridge the gap in the
literature and provide a balanced study of Libyan-American relations.

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