The Libyan Debate: Coercive Diplomacy Reconsidered

Document Type


Publication Date



Muammar Qaddafi’s decision to dismantle his Weapons of Mass Destruction programmes in December 2003 elicited an extensive debate about the role of normal versus coercive diplomacy. The normal diplomacy perspective rests on factors that cannot solve the “why know” problem, and it relies on an unsupported assumption that Qaddafi’s identity had changed. The Libyan case, however, challenges the coercive diplomacy model. Libya confronted a demand and threat to disarm, but the George W. Bush Administration issued no explicit threats, placed no time deadlines on Libyan compliance, and attached only a moderate sense of urgency to Libya’s WMD program. This study argues that the coercive diplomacy perspective needs slight modification to account for the Libyan case. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq provided implied threats to Qaddafi’s survival. The Bush Administration then used veiled threats to threaten Qaddafi simultaneously with unacceptable damage and enable diplomats to find a peaceful solution to the crisis.




Article Location