The Duck of Minerva

The Duck Quacks at Twilight

From LSE to the ICC?

February 22, 2011

Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi’s second son and purported successor, Saif Al-Islam Alqadhafi fueled the protests the other night with his disjointed speech. The irony of Saif’s complicity in all of this is that he wrote his Ph.D. dissertation under David Held at London School of Economics titled: “The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions.” From the Abstract:

This dissertation analyses the problem of how to create more just and democratic global governing institutions, exploring the approach of a more formal system of collective decision-making by the three main actors in global society: governments, civil society and the business sector.

The thesis explains and adopts three philosophical foundations in support of the argument. The first is liberal individualism; the thesis argues that there are strong motivations for free individuals to seek fair terms of cooperation within the necessary constraints of being members of a global society. Drawing on the works of David Hume, John Rawls and Ned McClennen, it elaborates significant self-interested and moral motives that prompt individuals to seek cooperation on fair terms if they expect others to do so. Secondly, it supports a theory of global justice, rejecting the limits of Rawls’s view of international justice based on what he calls ‘peoples’ rather than persons. Thirdly, the thesis adopts and applies David Held’s eight cosmopolitan principles to support the concept and specific structures of ‘Collective Management’.

I’ve read through the first couple of chapters and one question just jumps out from all of this: How does the author of this dissertation end up participating in the slaughter of civilians demanding greater rights from a repressive regime? David Held offers his observations here and comes to this conclusion:

“The Saif I came to know was one committed to strong liberal values and democratic standards,” Held said. “He looked very much to Britain and to the US for inspiration and he certainly was passionately committed to constitutional reform of his country, the rule of law, to democratic elections and to human rights.

“After his speech on Monday, there is no way now in which he can be a credible agent of reform. He was developing a set of democratic and liberal beliefs and he was putting those into practice. He saw them as seeds – as a stepping stone for the reform of his country.

“The only way I can make sense of his speech is that the speed of change in the Middle East has caught him unawares and overwhelmed him. The position he has taken compromised him in every way, and made him the enemy of ideals he once proclaimed.”

Saif’s expertise on global governance institutions may very well grow in the near future. His actions make him a participant in what likely constitute crimes against humanity and he will probably get a much closer look at the ICC — from the inside….

(Update: Apparently there may be another, partial answer to my question about how the author of this dissertation could be complicit in these crimes. He didn’t write it all. There is now a Wiki page that is tracking instances of plagiarism in the thesis.)

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Jon Western has spent the last fifteen years teaching IR in liberal arts colleges at Mount Holyoke College and the Five Colleges in western Massachusetts. He has an eclectic range of intellectual interests but often writes on international security, U.S. foreign policy, military intervention, and human rights. He occasionally shares his thoughts about professional life in liberal arts colleges. In his spare time he coaches middle school soccer, mentors the local high school robotics team, skis, and sails.