Saif Gaddafi at a Brazilian art event, via Vivi Mascaro
The head of the London School of Economics is stepping down because of his involvement with Libya, especially the now-revealed-to-be pathological son, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi. Giving him a doctorate was a bit shameful, mainly because the doctorate seems to have been widely plagiarized and because it was followed by an unseemly donation to the school. What Howard Davies is drawing heat for now is that they started a program to train hundreds of Libyans as future leaders. That is actually not bad idea. If you give dictatorial regimes something to lose, then they can lose.
The argument here seems to be that the LSE should not have engaged with Libya at all. They were taking money stolen from the Libyan people, essentially at gunpoint. Fine and good, but I personally think that more engagement with pariah states leads them to act less like pariah dogs and more like pariah humans. Because then they have something to lose.
North Korea, for example, will never see the (relatively) peaceful people power that Egypt did. Egypt was connected to the world, there were cameras in Tahrir Square and Egyptian leaders had something to lose from international sanctions and travel bans. North Korea, however, is already disconnected from everyone but China, has already banned most media and monitors communications and they will simply kill anyone that tries to protest and arrest their families. They have nothing to lose.
Libya is somewhere in between because it has started to rejoin the global field. That they have anything to lose at all is largely because of the travels of Gaddafi’s sons. That its international diplomats were the first to break off is also probably because they’ve travelled. Education and travel are not like AK-47s. Supplying them to a pariah state doesn’t give them more tools for evil per se.
Education and travel are actually great tools for softening up the underbelly of any dictatorial regime. In Sri Lanka, the endless rounds of peace negotiations exposed middling LTTErs to travel, money and opportunities beyond bloodily defending a particular patch of land. Many of them became soft, quit or completely defected like the party-loving Karuna. Those guys had something to lose and thus Sri Lanka was actually able to win.
I certainly agree that the LSE looks stupid and the reputational damage is pretty severe. When I think of them I kinda laugh in my head because it seems quite transparent that you can buy a degree with enough money and connections. At the same time, however, if more civilized countries and organizations had connected with Libya, Libya might have more to lose and might not be actively killing and bombing their own people now. That’s the act of an animal backed into a corner, not that of a statesman who had long ago being coaxed into middle of the room.
Gaddafi scared of a mouse, from an ISHR campaign