Jewish World Review July 7, 2003 / 7 Tamuz, 5763

Zev Chafets

JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
James Glassman
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
Michelle Malkin
Jackie Mason
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

It's a mistake to send troops to Liberia | In the runup to the invasion of Iraq, opponents of the war asked: Once the U.S. decides to police the world, where will it stop?

I've got the answer: Liberia.

There's no doubt that Liberia is a mess. It was a mess before 1980, when Master Sgt. Samuel Doe overthrew the government, murdering President William Tolbert and 13 cabinet ministers. It was a mess in 1990, when rivals kicked Doe out, legendarily forcing him to eat his own ears before administering the coup de grace. And it has been in a mess ever since, the scene of endless civil war.

This is a war about nothing. No ideology is involved. No principle is at stake. No American interest is threatened. Very simply, forces loyal to President Charles Taylor are fighting rebels over control of diamond smuggling and other Liberian economic enterprises.

The fighting has created a great deal of suffering, and there is pressure on President Bush to send in the Marines. Interestingly, most of the Liberia hawks - the Congressional Black Caucus, Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean and former Clintonistas - were doves on Iraq.

The hawks don't claim that America has economic or security interests in Liberia. In fact, that is their rationale for intervention: Sending troops is okay precisely because the U.S. would be disinterested.

But there are humanitarian crises all over the globe. Why should the U.S. send troops to Liberia?

Donate to JWR

The hawks reply that Liberia was founded by former American slaves. The U.S. needs to get involved for sentimental reasons. But this is a dubious proposition. The founders of independent Liberia in 1847 returned to Africa with a slave-owner mentality. These Americo-Liberians became a ruling aristocracy that brutally subdued the tribes of the hinterland and, in some cases, enslaved them. Always a minority, today they make up less than 3% of Liberia's population of 3.3 million.

As for the historical ties, Liberia traditionally has been treated by the U.S. as a very distant relation. Washington really noticed the place only after Firestone built a massive rubber plantation there in the 1920s. Later, Liberia mattered because of its strategic position on the west coast of Africa. But when the Cold War ended, so did any actual American interest in the country.

This is the basis on which the hawks want the U.S. to dispatch troops "to restore order." Order to a land that has known nothing but disorder for a generation and whose children are armed with AK-47s.

You want a quagmire? Here's a quagmire. So far, Bush gets it. While dispatching a few military experts to assess possible action, the President continues to condition intervention on the departure of Charles Taylor.

Bush doesn't want to be the one to depose Taylor himself, because he wisesly fears getting caught in a civil war with no good guys on either side.

If Taylor loses and goes, the U.S. can send troops to stabilize whatever new government takes over. Until then, sending troops invites disaster.

Which leaves the humanitarian issue: Who will stop the slaughter?

That is a job for Africans - specifically, the Economic Community of West African States - backed by the UN. If these organizations want Western troops, let them turn to Canada, Belgium, France and other advocates of multilateralism. America's role should be limited to providing diplomatic and economic support.

There are countries in Africa where the U.S. has a genuine stake. Nigeria, for example, because of oil; Kenya, now a battlefield in the war against Al Qaeda, or South Africa, to which the U.S. feels a far greater emotional tie than to Liberia. The welfare and security of these nations are vital American interests.

The future of Liberia is not.

Enjoy this writer's work? Why not sign-up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

JWR contributor Zev Chafets is a columnist for The New York Daily News. Comment by clicking here.

06/26/03: A Dem leaps in and lands on his face
06/20/03: Let Iraq build its own playgrounds
06/12/03: Raines and Clinton — boomers gone astray
06/09/03: Why Hillary did believe Bubba and what it says about her prospective presidency
06/04/03: Iran is next: Bush must tell Americans the Big Truth about ayatollahs
05/30/03: NYTimes has a bigger problem than Blair and Bragg — Dowd
05/27/03: Political — and literal — suicide
05/12/03: That noise is Europe rising
05/09/03: Dems overplay the economy card
05/05/03: Truth or Consequences: To win Arab liberals' trust, Bush needs to find Iraq's WMDs
05/01/03: U.S. security, not economy, is key for prez
04/28/03: Real artists, not airheads
04/22/03: Sealed With a Kiss
04/14/03: Don't believe the cheers
04/03/03: Iraq's only the start --- Syria & Iran are next
04/01/03: War's happy troubadours
03/27/03: What's not going on is the key in this war
03/20/03: The big question: Can Arabs handle liberty?
03/17/03: In war, like in baseball, the idea is to make the other guy cry --- now, let's go get 'em!
03/13/03: Jewish plot? This pol has gone punchy
03/11/03: Prez is ready to finish off the Security Council, too
03/04/03: Those human shields need some star power
02/28/03: How prez could further racial pluralism but end affirnative action
02/24/03: Prof's arrest will test Arab Americans' loyalty
02/11/03: Rhyme, but no reason
02/04/03: McGovern's children
01/23/03: A peace movement that's going nowhere
01/13/03: No time for experts
01/07/03: Senator from Mayberry shouldn't alarm prez
12/31/02: Dem Dummies
12/19/02: Saudis still play Santa to Arafat
12/13/02: Lott has to be dumped to save W's authority
12/05/02: Kissinger's Saudi pals litter 9/11 money trail
11/25/02: Sharon looks like a winner
11/18/02: It's the war, stupid
11/14/02: The Dems don't have a prayer
11/07/02: Watch for Dubya to give Arik political hug
10/31/02: Sharpton the patriot
10/22/02: Rabin, gone but not missed
10/17/02: Israelis bracing for US' punch at Iraq
10/14/02: Geriatric war resisters
09/27/02: Al Gore: The Lost Boy of American politics
09/05/02: The intifadeh's over, and the Israelis won
08/29/02: At the world summit, just anger & hypocrisy
08/21/02: No time for weak knees on Iraq
08/16/02: A pro-Arab pol may get the beating she deserves
08/13/02: Fight it out now
08/02/02: Memo to The Council on Foreign Relations: U.S. values won't sell in Arab world
07/31/02: Israel's nutty neighbors

© 2002, NY Daily News