Liberia: Let's Sit
This One Out
by Kimberley Wilson
A New Visions Commentary
paper published August 2003 by The National Center for Public
Policy Research, 501 Capitol Ct., N.E., Washington, DC 20002,
202/543-4110, Fax 202-543-5975, E-Mail [email protected],
Reprints permitted provided source is credited.
President Bush is being pressured by
the world and many American groups to send U.S. troops to Liberia
as peacekeepers. Their well-intentioned argument is that Liberia
desperately needs to be saved. That much is true.
The tiny country of Liberia is one of
the saddest places in West Africa and has seen almost continuous
strife over the last decade. The Liberian people are trapped
between warring government forces and rebel groups.
On one side is President Charles Taylor
with his Small Boy Units - child soldiers who, fueled by drugs
and knowing nothing else of life, don't hesitate to maim and
kill. Taylor also used the National Patriotic Front of Liberia.
The name sounds dignified, but it's actually a group of young
sociopaths who enjoyed dressing up in women's clothes, wigs and
cosmetics while slaughtering every living soul they came upon.
The rebel forces, Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy
(LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL), quite
frankly, don't look much better.
The country's economy is in ruins. The
infrastructure is destroyed. If you turn on a faucet, no water
comes out. If you flip on a light switch, there's no electricity.
Schools are closed. The telephones don't work and neither do
the sewers. People are not safe on the streets or in their homes.
Order and law have completely disappeared.
The Liberians are in genuine agony, and
it's not hard to pity them. But pity isn't a good reason to send
in American soldiers to a place where we have no national interest.
Realizing this, peacekeeping supporters are using guilt to bolster
their cause. When the Tutsi's faced genocide in Rwanda, the Western
world made a few mild protests but essentially looked the other
way until the killing was done. The pro-peacekeeping folks believe
that sending U.S. forces to Liberia would in some mystical way
atone for the Rwandan failure.
If that doesn't grab you, there's also
an appealing to sentiment. Freed American slaves founded Liberia
in 1821. Their descendents have names like Mary, Peter, Roosevelt,
Hill and Young. I'm sure DNA testing would find many of us have
distant cousins there. That's a sweet thought, but it's still
not a good reason to send American soldiers into the middle of
The pro-peacekeeping folks would rather
not hear this, but there are at least four good reasons why the
United States should avoid the Liberian mess:
* American lives will probably be lost.
Does anybody really think that the killing factions in Liberia
will just lay down their weapons and go home because a few American
soldiers tell them to? These individuals enjoy rape, torture
and slaughter. If unable to shoot at civilians and each other,
don't be shocked if they vent their violence on the peacekeepers.
* Iraq. Aren't we busy enough already?
* North Korea. Many see Kim Jong Il,
the dictator of that starving land, as a ridiculous little man.
But he repeatedly threatens his neighbors with attack. With American
forces stretched thinly across the globe, he may decide to finally
make his move.
* Soldiers are not social workers. Liberia is going to need several
years worth of help. A mere cease-fire isn't enough.
The situation in Liberia is tragic, but
the United States is not the world's nanny. We can't save everyone,
and there is nothing in our Constitution that says we are obligated
Liberia's neighbors have the most obvious
and immediate interest in restoring the peace. If anybody sends
peacekeepers, it ought to be them along with Europeans countries
that seem to be so eager to see America get involved.
Peacekeepers may be needed in Liberia,
but they don't have to be Americans. Let's sit this one out.
(Kimberley Wilson is a member
of the National Advisory Council and a freelance writer living
in Northern Virginia. Comments may be sent to [email protected].)
Note: New Visions Commentaries reflect the views of their author,
and not necessarily those of Project 21.
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