Regrets: Should the U.S. have made a deal with Qaddafi in 2003?

In hindsight, the deal struck with Gaddafi did little to help ordinary Libyans, said Aaron David Miller, a Middle East expert at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, a Washington research institute.

“We rehabilitated a cruel dictator in the interest of securing American policy gains,” Miller said. Though the policy change had its merits, “it was a devil’s bargain because we essentially said, ‘If you support our policies on war and peace, we’ll give you a pass on human rights,’ ” Miller said.

Others argue that Libyans would likely be no better off today if the deal had not been struck, and indeed, by almost every measure, the perils facing the region would be far worse.

“His nuclear program would still be intact and even further developed, and he would have his missiles and chemical weapons to use as he wishes,” said Elliott Abrams, a former foreign policy adviser to both Bush and President Ronald Reagan. Rejecting Gaddafi’s overture would have left the West without any levers for influencing Libyan behavior, he added.