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7 Years After Gadhafi's Ouster, Libya Remains Engulfed In Civil War


When talks of a U.S.-North Korean summit fell apart last week, fingers pointed to three words, the Libyan model. Here's Vice President Mike Pence last week.


VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: As the president made clear, you know, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn't make a deal.

MARTIN: Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave up his nation's nuclear weapons program in 2003. Seven years later, Gadhafi was ousted from power during the Arab Spring by rebels helped by a NATO airstrike. He was later killed. The uprising threw Libya into a chaos that continues to destabilize the Middle East. We're going to turn now to Ryan Crocker. He served as U.S. ambassador in the Middle East under several administrations, knows Libya well and joins us now.

Ambassador, thanks for being here.

RYAN CROCKER: Thanks for having me.

MARTIN: As we noted, Moammar Gadhafi met a rather brutal end. He was captured, tortured, killed by his own people, revolutionaries. That happened, though, several years after Libya gave up its nuclear program. How are those things related, if at all?

CROCKER: Well, certainly, they're related in the mind and eyes of people looking at events. I don't think I would be citing the Libya model vis-a-vis North Korea - not exactly the model I think that Kim Jong Un wants to follow.

MARTIN: Were revolutionaries motivated to unseat Gadhafi and to end his life because he gave up his nuclear weapons?

CROCKER: No, absolutely not. I think the lesson, though, that would be absorbed is if you give up your nukes, we don't care what happens. Don't look to us for support if time gets tough. So I think that's basically the lesson that I would expect the North Koreans to absorb. But clearly, the rebels that overthrew him did not have nuclear weapons on their mind.

MARTIN: Can you remind us what is happening in Libya today?

CROCKER: Well, it is a totally failed state. Different groups following different agendas hold sway in different parts of the country. It's interesting to note that unlike other Arab Spring risings - say, in Syria and Yemen - Libya is Sunni Arab almost exclusively. There are no significant minorities in the country. And that means for our strategic enemies like al-Qaida and Islamic State, there's a lot of room to run and hide - all over the country, basically. I think that's the big issue for us.

MARTIN: And is that the priority for the Trump administration? Do they look at Libya as a counterterrorism threat?

CROCKER: Yes. I would hope that that is what they're doing. But again, as we've seen elsewhere, if you're going to get at the terror threat, you're going to have to bring a broader stability or security. Otherwise, there's - you know, with multiple brushfire conflicts running through the country, there's a lot of room to hide.

MARTIN: The Obama administration, of which you were a part, was loath to pursue any kind of unilateral action in Libya. Critics of President Obama like to say that he was leading from behind. In retrospect, which I realize it's always easier to judge - but in retrospect, do you think that was the right call? Was the U.S. approach in Libya the right one?

CROCKER: Well, when you look at the consequences, one could not, I think, reasonably say that it is the right outcome. This stuff is all very hard. I mean, I get it that we don't want to own another country. But if you're going to be involved in regime change, as we were at least tacitly, you better have a plan for the day after. We had no such plan. We were not leading from the front or from behind. Not to say that we should have, could have done anything radically different, but I don't think we asked ourselves the question - then what?

MARTIN: As you look to the situation in North Korea we mentioned that the talks were scuttled preparations were perhaps temporarily put on hold. Everything seems to be moving forward now a high level representative from North Korea is expected in Washington. There are U.S. teams that have been deployed to Singapore and Pyongyang to discuss the possible summit. From where you sit do you think the administration is handling this moment well?

CROCKER: I think that they are definitely engaging. I think that is obviously in our interest. To say that - well, now we're going to have everything good going forward - not exactly. Let's see what happens over the coming days. You have two very unpredictable regimes here.

MARTIN: Former U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker, thank you so much for your time this morning.

CROCKER: Thank you, Rachel.

[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: A previous headline and Web introduction to this story incorrectly said the Arab Spring and Moammar Gadhafi's ouster took place nine years ago. It was actually seven years ago, in 2011.] Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Corrected: May 28, 2018 at 11:00 PM CDT
A previous headline and Web introduction to this story incorrectly said the Arab Spring and Moammar Gadhafi's ouster took place nine years ago. It was actually seven years ago, in 2011.
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