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Carrot or stick: Which nudged Libya?

Qaddafi's pledge to end his weapons program rekindles international debate over how best to confront rogue states.

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The extraordinary decision by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi to verifiably abandon weapons of mass destruction is a triumph for both diplomatic action and tough threats of the use of force.

Friday's news was long in the making. The man who once topped the A-list of sponsors of international terrorism has sought to emerge from diplomatic and economic isolation ever since he was linked to the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. But Colonel Qaddafi's efforts accelerated behind the scenes in March, on the eve of the US-led military effort to oust Saddam Hussein - timing some see as more than coincidence.

Libya's bid to rejoin the world community is sure to rekindle international debate over whether force or diplomacy is more effective in addressing the world's rogue states and their promotion of terrorism or pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

The answer may be that the two together garner the best results.

"Everybody will want to credit their own polices in these polarized times, Bush will want to claim it was the threat to use force that made this happen, while Europe will claim that smart sanctions coupled with meaningful economic incentives brought this about," says Michael O'Hanlon, a defense policy specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington. "The truth is that both the carrot and the stick are useful, especially when you put them together."

At the same time, the juxtaposition of clear progress in reversing the weapons programs of two countries - Libya and Iran - through diplomatic means, and the costly situation the US finds itself in in Iraq after militarily removing that regime, may mean that the use of force ends up the anomaly rather than the rule.


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