An Operational Assessment of the Rabta Episode
With the preceding chapters as a foundation, it is now possible to assess certain operational considerations in the Libyan chemical weapons episode. Of course, this assessment is centered on the case at hand, not on the general issue of chemical weapons within the international system. Nevertheless, the Rabta affair is very much related to the broader issue of chemical weapons proliferation; indeed, it represents a case of proliferation or, from the Libyan point view, of successful acquisition.
This chapter is organized around sets of observations from the United States, Libya, and the Federal Republic of Germany. These observations are conclusions reached on the basis of current evidence.
The United States apparently viewed the Libyan situation as a test case to prevent the spread of chemical weapons. Thus, it was important to exert enormous pressure on Libya and other elements in the international system to convince Libya to abandon its quest for chemical weapons. The high value that the United States placed on this test case can be measured by American willingness to risk a serious diplomatic rupture with West Germany, a NATO partner. Although, early in the episode the United States was somewhat hesitant to identify the FRG publicly, as Rabta construction proceeded, and as Libya moved toward having a functioning facility, the United States had little choice but to clearly identify West Germany and its commercial firms.
The attempt to halt Libya's quest for chemical weapons was a U.S. initiative. Given the widely recognized need to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons, it is disappointing that any sup-