The Monitor Group and Libya, Cont’d

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Mother Jones’ David Corn and Siddhartha Mahanta have an excellent piece about how The Monitor Group flacked for Libya and Moammar Gaddafi. Earlier this week I wrote about Monitor’s failure to register as a foreign lobbyist. Reading the Mother Jones piece makes it all the more clear what Monitor was up to:

In February 2007 Harvard professor Joseph Nye Jr., who developed the concept of “soft power”, visited Libya and sipped tea for three hours with Muammar Qaddafi. Months later, he penned an elegant description of the chat for The New Republic, reporting that Qaddafi had been interested in discussing “direct democracy.” Nye noted that “there is no doubt that” the Libyan autocrat “acts differently on the world stage today than he did in decades past. And the fact that he took so much time to discuss ideas—including soft power—with a visiting professor suggests that he is actively seeking a new strategy.” The article struck a hopeful tone: that there was a new Qaddafi. It also noted that Nye had gone to Libya “at the invitation of the Monitor Group, a consulting company that is helping Libya open itself to the global economy.”

Nye did not disclose all. He had actually traveled to Tripoli as a paid consultant of the Monitor Group (a relationship he disclosed in an email to Mother Jones), and the firm was working under a $3 million-per-year contract with Libya. Monitor, a Boston-based consulting firm with ties to the Harvard Business School, had been retained, according to internal documents obtained by a Libyan dissident group, not to promote economic development, but “to enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi.” So The New Republic published an article sympathetic to Qaddafi that had been written by a prominent American intellectual paid by a firm that was being compensated by Libya to burnish the dictator’s image.

The key strategy for achieving these aims, the operation summary said, “involves introducing to Libya important international figures that will influence other nations’ policies towards the country.” Also on the table, according to a Monitor document, was a book that Monitor would produce on “Qadhafi, the Man and His Ideas,” based in part on interviews between the Libyan dictator and these visiting international influentials. The book supposedly would “enable the international intellectual and policy-making elite to understand Qadhafi as an individual thinker rather than leader of a state.” (Monitor’s fee for this particular task: $1.65 million.) This volume never materialized. But one primary outcome of Monitor’s pro-Qaddafi endeavors, the operation summary said, was an increase in media coverage “broadly positive and increasingly sensitive to the Libyan point of view.”

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