Harvard Professor Joseph Nye Met With Muammar al-Gaddafi in Libya

Former Harvard Kennedy School Dean Joseph S. Nye Jr. met with Col. Muammar al-Gaddafi of Libya two times during the past four years and helped the colonel’s son with his doctoral thesis, Nye wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson yesterday.

Monitor Consulting Group, a Cambridge-based firm formed by several Harvard professors, has come under fire for working for Gaddafi and accepting $250,000 a month from 2006 to 2008 for its services, according to the Boston Globe.

In 2007, Monitor Group offered Nye an all-expense-paid trip to Libya so that he could give a speech on globalization and meet the colonel, Nye wrote in the e-mail.

“I was curious to see what Qaddafi was like,” Nye wrote in an e-mail. “Bad leaders are as interesting a topic for research as good leaders.”

After his meeting in 2007, Nye wrote an article about his meeting with Gaddafi for The New Republic, arguing at the time that the autocrat “seems to have become interested in soft power—the art of projecting influence through attraction rather than corrosion.”


“Since this was a period when Qaddafi had given up his nuclear program, was inviting American government officials to Libya, and appeared to be changing his international strategy, I thought my impressions were worth reporting,” Nye, who is a distinguished service professor at Harvard, wrote in the e-mail.

Nye said he also used some of the interview material for one of his books on leadership.

Gaddafi and Nye met again in October 2008 when Monitor Group asked Nye to join a group of experts in charge of explaining the world financial crisis to the colonel.

“The meeting lasted a few hours. I doubt we were very successful,” wrote Nye.

Nye also advised Gaddafi’s son Seif al-Islam Gaddafi on one chapter of his doctoral thesis at the London School of Economics at the request of a friend, Nye wrote, adding that he “frequently agrees” to such requests.

“I found the chapter intelligent as were Seif’s responses to my criticisms. He thanks me in the preface,” he wrote.

The London School of Economics has recently opened an investigation into the 2007 Ph.D. thesis, after allegations surfaced that it may have been plagiarized or ghost-written, according to the New York Times.

“I gather from the press that questions have been raised at LSE about Seif’s authorship of the thesis, but I do not know anything about that since I only commented on one chapter,” Nye wrote.

In spite of Nye’s meetings with Gaddafi, Nye wrote in the e-mail that he does not support the Gaddafi regime.

“At no time have I supported the Qaddafi regime, and I am on record as hoping for their swift overthrow,” he wrote.

Nye was not the only Kennedy School professor to meet with Gaddafi. Public Policy Professor Robert D. Putnam also met with the colonel in January 2007 to discuss political and economical reforms.

—Staff Writer Ariane Litalien can be reached at