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Title: The impact of the collapse of the Soviet Union on Libya foreign policy during the period from 1991 to 2003
Author: Dakheel, J. F.
ISNI:       0000 0004 5365 3814
Awarding Body: Nottingham Trent University
Current Institution: Nottingham Trent University
Date of Award: 2014
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One of the most notable events in world politics in the second half of the 20th century was the Soviet Union’s fall in December 1991 which profoundly changed the outlook of the global political scene and the balance of power among its key actors. This thesis studies the impacts and significance of the Soviet demise on Libyan foreign policy between 1991 and 2003. Libyan foreign policy was transformed; the thesis asks how, why and when this occurred and how the changes in foreign policy were managed. While so doing, a set of questions are raised concerning the emerging context and developments in world order which seemed to compel Libya to change its behaviour, changing its relations with the West in general and the United States in particular. Three major questions are explored in detail in this thesis. The first question relates to how and why Libya aligned with the Soviet Union. The second question addresses how and to what extent these developments in international order appeared to have affected Libya’s foreign policy behaviour. Finally, the third question sheds light on the reasons and attitudes that led to these changes in Libya’s foreign policy orientations. This is also to engage with an important literature on the scope of foreign policy of small states. It also raises questions of the role of leadership, the continuing post-Soviet relationship between Russia and Libya, the decision making processes in Libya, and the agent-structure question in international relations as it bears on the forces which brought about change in this case. Finally, it asks how Libyan political leaders related to each other as well as to their domestic and international environment. The Libyan case suggests that penal methods - i.e. coerciveness - can positively contribute to an entire overhaul of an outcast regime and to an alteration in its behaviour. But it also recognises that Libya’s leaders had some scope for choice and some freedom of manoeuvre; it asks how they defined and used those choices. This study helps to define the characteristics of the governance of Libyan regime and their implications for policy-making and implementation. This in turn aids explanation of the nature and processes of Libya’s choices in its foreign policy orientation. Foreign policy appeared to some to be erratic and arbitrary, but it may in fact have had more reasonable grounds and processes. The thesis questions a common image that Libyan foreign policy was dominated by wholly irrational decision making, although no doubt it was primarily dominated by a single leader. The theory of adaptive behaviour originally developed by Rosenau and Smith in the 1980s has continued to shape foreign policy studies, even though some of its features have been adapted or abandoned. Recent colloquia on the ‘state of the discipline’ in foreign policy studies point to the continuing importance of trying to give an account of foreign policy change. Starting with the theory of adaptive behaviour, the study examines the transformations of Libyan foreign policy and confirms the value of a version of this theory, at least as a starting point for enquiry, if it is modified and critiqued for the 2010s. It continues to offer deeper and more useful insights into foreign policy management in smaller as well as larger states, which allows for a new dimension to our considerations of the influences of a changed international system not only on pariah regimes, but also in relation to application on other cases. Furthermore, although the main claims to originality in the thesis turn on its contribution to knowledge in terms of the discovery of new information, the thesis makes an a modest additional contribution to knowledge in its theoretical development of arguments about how foreign policy change occurs. Additionally, the originality of this thesis stems from using a new original material in the form of a range of important interviews. These were conducted with some of the key Libyan policy makers involved directly in the shaping and implementation of Libyan foreign policy during that period of time. That gives the study an opportunity to achieve a more sophisticated analysis. The conclusions of the thesis are that Libyan leaders facing an enormous upheaval in their foreign policy context sought to limit the damage to their own position and to stabilise the regime in Tripoli. They did so first of all by the adjustment of foreign policy in consultation with Soviet leaders. But this proved to be inadequate, and a more radical response became necessary. Libyan foreign policy was, after some uncertainty and internal disagreement, turned towards a rapprochement with the West. So much is well known. The thesis shows how the process took place, how Libyan leaders responded to the crisis, how they tried to achieve wriggle room, sometimes but not always succeeding, and how they managed what came to be a relatively smooth transition to a pro-western orientation. In doing so, the fact that Libya was relatively a very small actor in a larger drama created opportunities for decision makers which they learned to take effectively. So the key themes of the thesis include the extent to which Libya had little choice, the extent to which decision makers recognised and used the choices they were able to find, the role of leadership and learning in foreign policy management, and the importance of domestic considerations in the external relations of governments, including the relatively small ones.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available