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The Gaddafis & the Professors: Consulting from Libya to Berzerkistan

5 March, 2011 (14:05) | Business, Economics, Education, Ethics & Morality, Middle East Wars, Uncategorized | By: Peter Kinder

As the Libyan regime teeters, the media have focused on the uses to which the Gaddafi family put the country’s wealth.  From Friday’s papers we learn a good deal about its connections with academics.

LSE Director Resigns

For instance, we learn from The Independent’s leading article that Sir Howard Davies, Director of the London School of Economics (LSE), has resigned. On Davies’s watch, the LSE accepted donations from the Gaddafis and offered Libyans training. Opined The Independent:

 The spotlight now cast so harshly on the LSE should prompt other establishments to ensure that the money they have so actively solicited has neither skewed academic priorities nor given the impression that degrees are for sale….

A distinction is also worth making between genuine commercial contracts for education and training purposes and gifts that may conceal an ulterior motive. In an interview elaborating on the reasons for his resignation yesterday, Sir Howard Davies drew a distinction between the acceptance of a donation – which he admitted was wrong in this case – and a contract with Libya to train the country’s future leaders, which he defended. That distinction is valid. It reflects well on Britain and its universities if they are chosen to educate the world’s elite of tomorrow….

I’m not certain The Independent’s argument makes any sense standing alone, but especially not in light of The Boston Globe’s lead article, ‘Local consultants aided Khadafy’.

The Monitor Group in Cambridge, MA
 
The Globe reports that Monitor Group, a consultancy founded by Harvard and other professors (see below), received $250,000 per month

from the Libyan government from 2006 to 2008 for a wide range of services, including writing the book proposal [see below], bringing prominent academics to Libya to meet Khadafy “to enhance international appreciation of Libya’’ and trying to generate positive news coverage of the country.

But that wasn’t all it did.

Yesterday, Monitor Group acknowledged in a statement that its paid work included helping Khadafy’s son Saif with his doctoral dissertation at the London School of Economics.

That puts The Independent article in a different light.

Monitor’s Academic Roster
 
Monitor’s roster of professors on the Libya account included some big names. According to The Globe:

Professors sent to visit Khadafy included luminaries such as Joseph Nye, former dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard; Lord Anthony Giddens, former head of the London School of Economics; Francis Fukuyama political philosopher from Stanford University; and Benjamin Barber [of Demos and Rutgers], who has written extensively about democracy.

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The activities of Monitor — a company with 1,500 employees and 29 offices around the world that boasts governments, nonprofits, and companies as clients — also raise questions about the line between academic research and advocacy.

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Monitor’s work in Libya began when Michael Porter, a Harvard Business School professor who is among the country’s top theorists on management strategies, received a call from Saif Khadafy around 2001, according to Porter [who, The Globe says, also indicates he is no longer directly involved in Monitor’s management]….

The Gaddafi Book
 
One of the projects Monitor mooted was a book to burnish the image of Libya’s dictator, Col Muammar al-Gaddafi. Says The Globe:

In 2007, Monitor wrote a proposal seeking about $2 million in expenses and fees for the Khadafy book, according to the memos.

“The book will allow the reader to hear Khadafy elaborate in his own words, and in conversation with renowned international experts,’’ the proposal states. It said that Barber would “clarify several questions from previous conversations with Khadafy’’ while Giddens “will visit to deepen understanding of the merits and problems of direct democracy vs. representative democracy.’’

Barber, who is described in Monitor memos as a “subcontractor,’’ said he refused to work on the book, which was later abandoned by Monitor.

From Russia to Berzerkistan
 
The activities of Harvard professors in the mid-1990s as consultants in Russia led to major litigation between the University and the US government. It touched Larry Summers, Harvard’s then president and Clinton and Obama economics adviser. David Warsh, first at The Boston Globe and now at his invaluable website, EconomicPrincipals.com has chronicled this scandal since the 1990s, e.g., in an article last week.

One wonders how much Harvard and other academic institution learned from Harvard’s experience consulting on Russia’s economic liberalization. Failing that, perhaps they should have taken heed of Yalie G.B. Trudeau’s great creation, Uncle Duke, and his efforts on behalf of Berzerkistan’s president-for-life, Trff Bmzklfrpz.

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