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Revisiting the Libya Question (Or, My Silly Term Paper)

libya_pageone.gifOne thing that has always bothered me about college is that we students are expected to be little academics. This never made much sense to me. If you can think back to high school, then you can think back to your chemistry teacher spending one day at the beginning of the year on laboratory safety procedures. Except you didn’t have a laboratory—you had just another classroom, except with a few sinks. And you were informed at length about proper use of sterilized safety goggles. Except, again, you didn’t have sterilized safety goggles—you had rubber flabs which were put underneath a ninety watt incandescent bulb for eight hours each night. After all of that forewarning, you spent the period sniffing the various gasses and throwing frog parts at your buddies. You were not a scientist.

Anyway, here’s the point: Most people in college, including me, are not academics at heart and will never possess any business card which contains the words: “The H.R. Pennypacker Professor of Political Science.” Especially us folks interested in goverment—we won’t be professors. Political science professors—well, just some of them—have jobs that include taking ten facts which speak for their personal political preference and nine facts which speak for the opposing view, and writing those nineteen facts into a “paper” which purports to reach an objective conclusion to a question which usually has no objective answer to begin with. For example: “Why did Libya cede its nuclear weapons program to the United States in 2003?”

That’s the question I chose to answer—or, rather, craft an extended op-ed in favor of my answer—for the close of a course I was taking this past term. (Dartmouth students take classes during the summer at the end of their sophomore year.) The paper is called “How Libya Was Won.” The thing is mostly polemic, really. I refuse to believe that I am in some extreme minority of twentysomethings who cannot numb themselves to all personal views in relentless pursuit of the facts. I’m just being honest about my biases. And advocating really is more fun than analyzing, isn’t it? Especially when what you’d have to analyze is not an experiment but a slice of history which, with its parsecs-deep complexity, doesn’t especially lend itself to the scientific process. And so here are my twelve pages telling you why I think the Iraq War was what provoked Qaddafi to dismantle Libya’s nuclear weapons program. [PDF]

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