The Monitor Group, among the world's most prestigious strategy consultancies, is taking heavy flak from academic circles as a result of its recent engagement with Muammar Qaddafi's regime in Libya. Thus far, pundits in both media and academia have largely focused on the ethical questions surrounding Monitor's involvement with the autocratic government, which saw the firm embark on a PR campaign designed to cast the country and its leader in a more favorable light internationally. Now, leaked cables between the firm and the Qaddafi administration suggest that Monitor Group had a hand in the development and organization of Libya's national security infrastructure, which is now coordinating the logistics behind the brutal military crackdown sweeping the North African state.
Academics have been quick to condemn their own colleagues for participating in a Monitor-organized PR push of dubious accuracy and morality. The focus of their ire is a 22-page book proposal by Monitor consultants that portrays Qaddafi and his government in an irrationally positive light. Over the course of nearly a decade, the Boston Globe reports, Monitor Group paid leading academics (including professors from Harvard, LSE, Stanford, and more) to travel to Libya and return to peddle flattering reviews in exchange for financial boons.
Hugs abound in Monitor's Libya.
Scholars examined the ethical fallout over their fellow academics' choice to participate, a reality that the Globe's editors think amounted to a full-blown "corruption of academia." "The really nefarious aspect of this is that it reinforced in Qaddafi's mind that he truly was an international intellectual world figure, and that his ideas of democracy were to be taken seriously," said a Dartmouth College political science professor. "It reinforced his reluctance to come to terms with the reality around him, which was that Libya is in many ways an inconsequential country and his ideas are half-baked."
Among Qaddafi's half-baked schemes that Monitor supported was the formation of the National Security Council, an "elite" military intelligence organization that keeps tabs on "crises" in Libya and abroad and ultimately "improve security" in the country. To be fair, Monitor seems to have approached the organization's formation as it would a business client. The firm mostly provided advice on organizational structure, staffing, IT infrastructure and aspects of strategic direction, though it also appears that Monitor consultants provided training on "security and intelligence technology" and other military systems. The extent to which these security measures are currently being used against the Libyan people is unknown.
For Monitor Group's part, the firm insists that its intentions were driven by virtuous aims, not the $250,000 that Qaddafi paid the Boston-based consultancy each month for its services. "Monitor believes that the vast majority of our work in and for Libya was appropriate and responsible," a firm representative told Mother Jones, the first publication to break the story. "But we did make mistakes."
Mother Jones, for one, couldn't agree more with that final sentiment. "Perhaps another one," the publication muses, "is not fully acknowledging that it pocketed millions of dollars for selling Qaddafi to the West."
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