Harvard professor Joseph Nye, whose involvement with a consulting firm hired by Muammar Qaddafi to burnish his image was criticized today by Mother Jones, also helped Saif Qaddafi with his controversial 2007 doctoral thesis at the London School of Economics. The thesis attracted attention after Saif, often referred as his father's favored son, took to Libyan state television to warn protesters of a violent crackdown. Many pointed out the irony that his doctoral thesis was titled "The Role of Civil Society in the Democratisation of Global Governance Institutions." More recently, the LSE said the thesis is under review after accusations that parts of it were ghost-written or plagiarized.
We got a copy of the thesis and interestingly enough, Qaddafi thanks Nye--one Harvard Kennedy's School's star professors, famous for developing the concept of 'soft power'--in the acknowledgments section:
I would also like to acknowledge the benefit I received from comments on early drafts of the thesis from a number of experts with whom I met and who consented to read portions of the manuscript and provide advice and direction, especially Professor Joseph Nye. I would also like to thank a number of individuals at Monitor Group with whom I worked to design and conduct the NGO Survey which provides empirical data for this thesis.
According to Mother Jones, Nye was one of a handful of heavyweight academics who traveled to Libya in connection with the Monitor Group, which was working under a $3 million dollar-per-year contract with Libya. Mother Jones has obtained internal documents allegedly from the Monitor Group stating that the project was to "enhance the profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi." Nye came back and penned an article about his experiences in the New Republic, that while noted that he had traveled to Libya "at the invitation of the Monitor Group, a consulting company that is helping Libya open itself to the global economy," failed to disclose his role as a paid consultant of the firm. (The article's note has since been amended by TNR).
Given all this, we asked Nye to describe the help he gave Qaddafi, and he promptly responded via email. "I am told that Seif thanks me in the preface, though I have not seen the whole thesis," he wrote. "A former student asked me to comment on the theoretical chapter because it referred to my theory of soft power. I read it and found it intelligent as were Seif’s responses to my criticism. This was done pro bono. ( I frequently respond to works on soft power.)"
Nye didn't directly answer our question of whether he helped Qaddafi on his thesis as part of his work with the Monitor Group, but he did give this account of his work for the group:
My paid consulting for Monitor was for two trips to Libya in 2007 and 2008 to meet the father. It was similar to visits Monitor arranged for Robert Putnam, Ben Barber, Frank Fukuyama and others at a time when it appeared that Qaddafi was trying to open to the West, in response to efforts by the US government. I described the first trip in some detail ( and disclosed that it was at the behest of a consulting firm) in The New Republic in 2007. Incidentally, despite the innuendo of Rolling Stone [we think he meant Mother Jones], the article was not at the behest of Monitor, but was my own idea. Some of the visitors published about their visits and some did not.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.