The Therapy Sessions
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Provided that the troops can be spared, I would like to see us go into Liberia.
Liberia is a very pro-American country in a confused region. It is 20% Muslim, but many of the countries that neighbor it have much larger Muslim populations. People in the region admire the US when it can help, but often they look at US motives skeptically, with good reason (see Congo (Zaire)). The war that spilled over into Sierra Leone was one of the cruelest that the world has seen in a long time.
As in Haiti, I don’t think our intervention would be a big deal. The mere threat of it has Charles Taylor offering to step down and seeking refuge in Nigeria (this from a complete scumbag who vowed to fight to the death and never resign). This is a smart move since he would , if captured, be executed quickly by his own people for war crimes (he deserves it).
In Liberia, I think you are likely to see large crowds waving American flags (which will gall Europeans, of course), and rebels who quickly fade back into the populace and give up when faced with real military force. The situation in West Africa has always been a “law and order” situation (the inability and unwillingness of the government to enforce the law), not a “civil war” (where issues of real political policy are involved).
Unilaterally, Britain was able – with a small commitment of troops –to stop much of the fighting in Sierra Leone. (By contrast, France (working within UN mandates, naturally) has managed to do little more than secure itself a good seat to the bloodshed in the Congo.)
What does the US gain? Sometimes, I’m afraid, doing the right thing is its own reward. We may possibly sway Africa toward us. Right now, most Africans are benign Muslims. We have seen less benign Muslims operating easily in several African countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Nigeria, Malawi, Somalia and Sudan come to mind. But the populations generally hate there rabble-rousing and intolerance, and active US engagement in Africa might help maintain that.
I don’t have any illusions about a long term African rebirth. I wish I could see that coming.
But all of this is contigent on wheter we can spare the troops right now. Iraq is - and it should remain - the priority.
(A quick admission: I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Sierra Leone in 1991-92, prior to the bloodshed. In many ways, the Africans that I knew were the most caring and innocent people in the world, completely undeserving of, and unprepared for, the war Charles Taylor forced upon them. Long term, Africa will have to help itself through economic reform, but without stability (which the US can easily provide) economic reform is impossible.)