July 9, 2003


The instant upside to intervention is saving thousands of innocent lives. That’s another reason to intervene.

Liberia, however, is a “fake state” in utter disorder. Fixing it requires sustained presence. There’s the crux of the “exit” issue — who stays to build?

ECOWAS is 16 poor African nations — aid recipients, not donors. The best non-governmental relief and development organizations are already overtaxed.

The African, European and American consensus seems to be to use American forces to stop Liberia’s killers. The Bush administration needs to use this crisis as an opportunity to pursue a grander political consensus: America will stop the killers, but other nations must supply the builders.

France crabs about American “hyperpower,” though hyperpower puts Marines in Monrovia. What Liberia needs is “hammer power” — long-term developmental support. That’s difficult, and it’s expensive. Still, it’s the only way to make any entrance worth the effort.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

UPDATE: Vik Rubenfeld, meanwhile, thinks the Liberia issue is rebounding on Bush’s critics. Weirdly, James Ridgeway, writing in The Village Voice, sort of agrees:

Bush’s foray into Africa carries meaning for his re-election campaign. The religious right is taking credit for getting the president into Africa. Moreover, for 20 years the GOP right wing has drooled over the idea of breaking the Democratic Party’s grip on the black vote. Despite all his talk, Clinton did little for Africa, and indeed had to apologize for not acting in the Rwanda disaster. Should Bush actually get seriously involved in combating AIDS and poverty, and if he succeeds in stabilizing West Africa, he may at long last begin the process of pulling black votes from the Democrats.

Just how smart is Karl Rove, anyway?

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