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Gaddafi and Change

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David Warsh, generally a respected journalist, has just published in the Providence Journal an attack on Michael Porter of Harvard Business School for consulting with Gaddafi about change in Libya in the period after Gaddafi gave up his nuclear weapons program and his overt support for terrorism. Porter, a founder of the Monitor Consulting Group, developed a plan to promote change in Libya. He hired a number of Western intellectuals to help by going to Libya to promote new ideas.

Porter can reply for himself about Warsh's attack, but in his piece Warsh repeated a false account of my role based on a now discredited story by David Corn of Mother Jones. It is an interesting example of how misinformation on the internet can get legs when reporters do not live up to their professional standards.

Here is what Warsh wrote:

Among those enlisted were Sir Anthony Giddens, former director of the LSE; Francis Fukuyama, of Stanford University; Benjamin Barber, of Rutgers University (emeritus); Nicholas Negroponte, founder of MIT's Media Lab; Robert Putnam and Joseph Nye, both former deans of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. Nye received a fee and wrote a broadly sympathetic account of his three-hour visit with Gadhafi for The New Republic. He also told The Globe's Stockman he had commented on a chapter of Saif's doctoral dissertation. (When The New Republic scolded Nye earlier this month, after Mother Jones magazine disclosed the fee, Nye replied that his original manuscript implied that he had been employed as a consultant by Monitor, but that the phrase had been edited out).

The facts are that Monitor never asked me to write about my trip to Libya, and my 2007 article in TNR was my own idea. I referred to Gaddafi as a domineering autocrat with a bad record on human rights and terrorism. Most important as a matter of professional ethics, I clearly told TNR that I had been hired by Monitor to make the trip. Franklin Foer, then editor of TNR, mistakenly told David Corn that I had not so disclosed, and Corn, violating a fundamental principle of journalism, never checked with me. When I showed TNR the original document I sent them in 2007, they replied "I owe you an apology: Clearly my recollection was very wrong. We will publish this ASAP. And again, you have my sincere apologies." Their retraction was published (though Corn never had the decency to acknowledge his mistake.) I wonder why Warsh never checked his facts? As for my involvement with Seif''s thesis, at the request of a friend, I read one chapter that referred to soft power, something I have done for many who have written about that topic. Otherwise, I was not involved in his thesis and know nothing about the controversy about it that the London School of Economics is now investigating.

In any case, I have never supported Gaddafi and am on record wishing him gone, and also on record supporting Obama's actions in recent weeks. We now know that Gaddafi's departure is the only change that will work in Libya.