Libyan honor, Libyan Oil

Writing in the Chicago Tribune, Gal Luft, of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security, provides an insight into the Arab/Muslim mentality; its insistence on honor, and its persistence at defending it no matter the cost, to explain Scotland's and England's capitulation in the early release of the Lockerbie plane terrorist bomber to Libya.

An earlier incident regarding Libya provides an instructive lesson. Last year Gaddafi's son, Hannibal, who had "a rich criminal record in several European countries" was arrested in Switzerland for beating his wife. Acceptable in Libya perhaps but not in Switzerland. An angry Gaddafi demanded that the Swiss drop the charges and apologize; the Swiss agreed to the former but not the latter and Hannibal departed for Libya.

Thus began the "Hannibal's war," as diplomats call it, an economic and diplomatic jihad against Switzerland. First, Gaddafi cut his oil supply to Switzerland (Libya supplies some 20 percent of Switzerland's oil) and called upon all other OPEC nations to do the same. Then, Libya pulled billions of dollars in deposits from Swiss banks, severed air links with Switzerland and forced several Swiss companies operating in Libya to terminate their businesses. In addition, Gaddafi arrested two Swiss businessmen and kept them as hostages. Most recently, the Libyan prime minister refused to meet the new Swiss charge d'affaires in Tripoli.

And how did the sturdy Swiss respond?

It worked. The Swiss couldn't take the pressure and hoisted the white flag. Last week, Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz, the same man who in April allowed Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be the only head of state to speak at the Durban Review Conference on racism in Geneva, traveled to Tripoli where he asked the Libyans for forgiveness and issued a public apology for the "unjust arrest of Libyan diplomats by Geneva police.

In describing the arrest as unjust, Merz has not only tarnished his country's honor but also gave a kick in the face to the Geneva police, whose only "wrongdoing" was law enforcement.

Because it was a local matter Switzerland's total surrender didn't receive much attention. But it certainly set a dangerous pattern.

Why was Gaddafi's reaction so seemingly disproportionate?

"Honor must be saved," Gadaffi explained, while Hannibal punctuated at a reception in Tripoli for Arab diplomats: "If I had an atomic bomb I would wipe Switzerland off the map."

What can be learned from the Swiss incident, the Libyan incident, other incidents dealing with the Arabs/Muslims both at present and in the future?

First, never underestimate the power of honor in Muslim culture. Second, Even though it's 36 years after the embargo, the oil weapon is still a potent one. And third, the release of the Lockerbie terrorist al-Megrahi has opened the gate to endless business opportunities in Libya's energery sector.

Europe needs Libyan oil, the best kind. Europe needs Libyan wealth. Thus, Luft concludes

Europe is becoming increasingly addicted to Libya's energy. And addicts are willing to do much more for their pushers than commit what the FBI's head called a "mockery of justice."

And our European allies, not known much for their backbone are deeply hooked; they would rather remain addicted and in a stupor then fight back. They have no honor.