How Did Gadhafi Keep His Scud Missiles for So Long?

Posted: August 23, 2011 in Songs of Space and Nuclear War
Tags: , , , , ,

Let me save you some time if you’re considering reading the Danger Room article, How Did Gadhafi Keep His Scud Missiles for So Long?  (As background, the Scuds were supposed to have been removed from the Libyan military inventory by 2009.)

The short answer to the question is this: the Libyans didn’t do what they promised.  Instead, they did everything possible to slow-roll the de-Scuding process.  I’m shocked, shocked!

Almost concurrent with the U.S. invasion of Iraq invasion in 2003, the Libyans showed a commendable commitment to avoiding regime change self-preservation world peace when they said they would end their nuclear weapons program.  Later, in the spring of 2004, Libya said it would modify their short-range Scud-Bs to reduce both range and payload.  That plan was not technically feasible and was soon shelved in favor of a better one.

The better plan featured the Libyans agreeing to de-Scud themselves.  This was done via a negotiated trilateral settlement (which likely “had the full force of the law behind it”), signed in September 2004 by the U.S., the UK, and Libya.  This plan committed the Libyans to being SCUD-free by 2009. 

In the intervening time, Libyan-created drama (including their desire to procure a replacement Scud system, even though they were still no doubt still committed to world peace) allowed them to drag out the process.  However, 2009 came and went and when the hydrazine and oxidizer clouds had cleared, the Libyans still had all their Scuds, as many as 240 of them (note: the Danger Room article offers a missile-count of 417 missiles in Libyan possession and implies they’re all Scuds.  Go with the 240; that number is sourced from Jane’s).

We would be wise to avoid throwing out the Libyan baby with the Scud bathwater: even though we may now ponder the Libyan commitment to world peace, we shouldn’t question the efficacy of international arrangements, an essential subset of the “smart power” taxonomy.  After all, consider that the Libyans human rights record was praised in a draft UN Human Rights Council document from earlier this year and as summarized here.  (note from self: wait…I just unproved my own case, didn’t I?)

Scuds are routinely ridiculed for their poor accuracy and corresponding low probability of kill when fitted with high-explosives, raising the question “Why would anyone want them anyway?”  The answer is obvious: were Gadhafi to somehow procure a nuclear weapon (or more than one) which was Scud-deliverable, poor accuracy becomes much less important.

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