George Bush’s response to the Liberia bloodbath is morally bankrupt and reprehensible. Thousands of innocent Liberian civilians have been killed, caught in a bloody vise squeezed between two brutal and corrupt forces, those of Charles Taylor and of the rebels attempting to usurp him. It would have taken relatively little military power to intervene early on and quash the bloodbath. Colin Powell wanted to do it. But for some reason Bush and his handlers thought better of this. Instead, they hoped that by “showing the flag” and sending 2,500 troops on three warships which anchored off the coast–that somehow this would force Taylor and the rebels to sit up and take notice. So how did Bush decide to “ratchet up” the pressure on Taylor to resign and leave Liberia?? He moved the warships a few miles closer to the coast so Liberians could actually see them on the horizon! Really, that’s what passes for a “policy initiative” in this Administration. Luckily, Taylor has heeded the calls of world leaders and his fellow African leaders (including Nigeria) and has left the scene.
Having American troops anchored in the ocean off Liberia’s coast is not a serious policy to stabilize Liberia. It is an excuse for a policy. Does Bush believe that Nigerian troops alone will be able to set Liberia on a proper course to peace and prosperity? After all, these are the same troops which let Taylor come to power in 1995! Why do we think they’d do any better job today?
Why is Bush gunshy on Liberia? We’ve heard all the old saws about fear of a repeat of Somalia. I don’t buy it. I think Bush feels in his heart of hearts that Africa and Africans don’t matter. They’re in the second or third tier of his international relations concerns. Bush believes that he is riding high on his anti-terrorism credentials and is only interested in pursuing foreign policy goals that advance this agenda.
If the U.S. doesn’t make a serious commitment to Liberia, including placing troops on the ground it is very likely that we will have a repeat of the the last Librerian civil war which began in 1989 and brought Charles Taylor to power.