Does Libyan Deal Set a Bad Precedent? Libya's release of six foreign medical workers held under questionable circumstances will be followed by a visit from U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Is this an example of rewarding bad international behavior? What are the costs of such an action?
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Does Libyan Deal Set a Bad Precedent?

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Does Libyan Deal Set a Bad Precedent?

Does Libyan Deal Set a Bad Precedent?

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A friend of mine has two children under the age of 4 and tragically, has to fly cross-country with them regularly. They are not ideal companions. So when they act up, she gives them lollipops. It quiets them down, makes her trip easier, but it also rewards bad behavior.

A similar strategy may be playing out with a nation that has long been considered an international bad boy. Libya has been misbehaving of late. But the West rewarded the country this past week with diplomatic and economic lollipops.

Robert Gallucci is dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington. Welcome to the program.

Dr. ROBERT GALLUCI (Dean, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University): Thanks very much. A pleasure to be here.

ROBERTS: Libya released the six foreign medical workers who had been held for more than eight years. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she's hopeful to travel to Libya, have some diplomatic relations with Libya, same with France, same with the United Kingdom. How wise a diplomatic strategy do you think that is to reward to Libya to some degree for freeing medics who probably shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place?

Dr. GALLUCI: I'd be careful about the metaphor that what we're dealing with here are recalcitrant children. The international system is not a playground and the stakes can be quite high. They can be a high in human terms, and they can be high in terms of the way in which states relate one with another when national security is at issue.

ROBERTS: Is there something particular about Libya that makes this a diplomatic strategy worth employing? I mean, the State Department removed Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism after Libya agreed to pay compensation for the Lockerbie bombing. This is a strategy that's been employed before with this regime.

Dr. GALLUCI: I would take it case by case and I am substantially less concerned about precedent and what other states are going to learn. Indeed I'm not so concerned about what Libya learns. I'm concerned about dealing with an individual situation, whether it's handling their nuclear weapons program, or it's freeing people who were essentially hostages in Libya.

ROBERTS: Why doesn't this set some kind of a precedent or at least send some sort of a message to a regime in a similar circumstance that they might have this carrot instead of a stick?

Dr. GALLUCI: Because I believe states respond principally to their own regional realities. The idea that we don't do something that has a humanitarian payoff or a national security payoff because we're worried about some example that's being set that is going to be copied by Iran, for example, or some other state. That really I don't think captures the way states behave.

ROBERTS: Is there a danger that the strategy in Libya with releasing these medics is tantamount to paying ransom for hostages? You used the word hostage yourself for them.

Dr. GALLUCI: Look, I believe that we - and a number of other countries - say quite clearly we don't negotiate with terrorists, we don't negotiate with those who take hostages. And that's a good opening position. And then we negotiate and that's what we ought to do. And yes, maybe, there is a price to pay with respect to precedent. But I - it wouldn't stop me from doing what I regard as the right thing to do.

ROBERTS: Well, let's talk about another specific example, in North Korea and their promise to give up its nuclear weapons program.

Dr. GALLUCI: In the North Korean case, I believe their proper approach to this case in the first instance is one of national security. What's our concern with North Korea? Our concern is that they'll have a nuclear weapons program, which will threaten allies and even the United States. Our concern is they'll transfer plutonium or weapons to a terrorist group who would then introduce a weapon in the United States and kill millions of people.

Now those kinds of stakes are rather large. So if we can stop that program, short of a war on the Korean peninsula, through a negotiation but don't because we're worried about setting a bad example for - by rewarding bad behavior? This strikes me again as a kind of a playground mentality completely inappropriate to a national security interest of this magnitude.

And if I might add, I think that for some years in this administration, there was an ideologically driven position that led the administration really to look upon negotiation with North Korea as something less than ethical or less than effective with that regime. I believe they're, and the administration, exploring the idea of negotiating with North Korea right now. And I'm glad to see them trying to do it.

I don't know if it will necessary work but it seems to me that avoiding it out of some sense of an example when it's going to set by rewarding bad behavior is to use the technical diplomatic term - nuts.

ROBERTS: Robert Galluci, thanks so much for joining us.

Dr. GALLUCI: Thank you very much for having me.

ROBERTS: Robert Galluci was chief U.S. negotiator during the North Korean nuclear crisis of 1994. He's now dean of Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service in Washington.

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