May I urge that the time has come to gin up an action program on Libya.
In four years I haven’t met a single optimist on this non-country; there
are only varying degrees of pessimism. True, Libya is no more fragile
than many other African or Arab states, but we have a very special
interest in it—not only because of Wheelus Base but oil investments
approaching $1 billion.
We’ve spent a lot of time and energy devising a good strategy to prolong
our hold on Wheelus. But we’ve been rather passive about the larger problem—preserving Libya’s
independence by helping it toward a higher degree of internal stability
and growth. From where I sit, we don’t seem to be worrying enough about
Libya—not State, AID, DOD, CIA,
or above all the British, who seem either unduly complacent or
increasingly prepared to write Libya off.
A more active policy wouldn’t necessarily cost us much, because Libya’s
own oil revenue (if halfway efficiently used) would more than suffice.
What we mostly need are some ideas, energy and preventive diplomacy.
With luck, we may have a few years yet before a succession crisis calls
Libya’s future into doubt, but it could happen any time. So I see merit
in mounting a preventive effort right now.
Inter-agency task forces seem a bit passe these days, but why couldn’t an
informal action program be drawn up under State’s leadership? An NPP might be in order, but this would take
As an initial stop, Dave Newsom when in London Thursday could be
instructed to probe hard for both the UK’s own sense of the situation and what concrete measures they
might propose. Given our still substantial joint interest in Libya,
there might be merit in developing a joint program.
Second, why not tell Dave that, when he gets to Libya, he should ask the
Embassy on your behalf to come up pronto with its own version of an
action program, aimed at complementing our Wheelus negotiating strategy
by focussing on a broader target.
Third, why not ask the Agency to come up with some political action
suggestions aimed at strengthening Libya’s independence and fortifying
the position of friendly elements. None of us have any brilliant ideas
as yet, but we’re never going to get any unless we start worrying the
Fourth, we might think again about discreet ways of warning off Nasser,
for whatever these are worth.
Fifth, are we or the British doing enough to encourage the Libyans to
spend their own money wisely? I fear we have concluded that our aid
phase-out deprives us of much leverage. I’m not sure this is valid,
given Libya’s continuing dependence on US/UK support for its very security. But at any rate, I’d
rather make an effort and fail than not make one.
The above ideas by no means exhaust the possibilities; others may have
wiser thoughts. But the real need is to anticipate the problem while
there’s yet time. I’m sure you agree with me—the important thing now is
to bell the cat.