Muammar al-Qaddafi initiated significant modifications in the tone, content, and direction of Libyan foreign policy as the twentieth century closed, a process he accelerated in the wake of the 9/11/01 attacks on America. Qaddafi’s ability and desire to institutionalize his agenda are not yet clear, but many aspects of contemporary Libyan foreign policy will be difficult to reverse. The new directions in Libya’s external policy have important implications for the Bush administration’s war on terror, most especially its preemptive strategy against hostile states and terrorist groups.
One of the more unfortunate results of the embargo regime imposed on Libya by the United States beginning with the Reagan administration was that it throttled the flow of information between the two states. Consequently, U.S. policy makers today operate largely from a state of ignorance about Libya, its leaders, and its policies. With Libya a potential second-tier preemptive strike target in the war on terror, it becomes doubly important to understand clearly the developments taking place in the external policies of the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.