Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
July 07, 2003
WAR: Liberia Counterpoint
I agree with the Crank in general terms about the necessary preconditions for inserting U.S. forces into countries. Yet, as I hinted here and here, I am sympathetic to the view that we should be involved in helping Liberia.
I am by no means an expert on Liberia and, like many others, am learning about it on the fly, however, a few things stand out about this situation which make it a little different than Somalia and other we-must-do-something quagmires.
First off, Liberiaís deep historical ties to the U.S. and, more importantly, its ongoing goodwill towards the U.S., make it something of an African ally. As such, it is deserving of heightened concern and efforts on our part to ensure its survival and stability. We want to be known as a country that does right by its allies and admirers. I do not buy into the notion that Liberiaís freed-slave-state roots put any moral obligations on the U.S., but I think that the American roots of the country does give us a reason to be legitimately interested.
Secondly, and related, in terms of a cost-benefit analysis, very little effort on our part is necessary to do great good in Liberia. Since our presence is apparently welcomed by most of the parties involved, even minimal expressions of concern or interest have significant and positive ramifications on the course of the situation in the country. An example of this can be seen in Charles Taylor conditionally agreeing to accept asylum just days after President Bush stated his view that he must.
Third, Africa may not be as strategically irrelevant as many of us assume. I saw a few commentators the other day talking about the possibility of making western Africa an alternative supplier of energy resources (i.e. oil) in the future. Again, I donít know enough about that region as I should, but it seems to me that stable governments there are a necessary precondition of making such a vision a viable reality. Also as the Crank mentioned, any indications that al Qaeda is recruiting in, operating from or being aided by any Liberian elements provides all the justification we need to go in there on our own terms with our own priorities.
All of this is not to say I am ready to put one U.S. soldier in the way of a bullet in Liberia. As of now, I am not and, like President Bush, I want to know more. Yet, more can be done and already the results of heightened diplomatic focus on Liberia are becoming apparent. If nothing else, and if necessary, the U.S. should attempt to organize a United Nations peacekeeping force to go into the country. Unlike a sovereign nation like the United States, the U.N. is better suited to intervening in conflicts where it will not take sides. There is probably a role for America in Liberia somewhere in between the front lines and the sidelines.