August 5, 2003

AFRICAPUNDIT is back off hiatus. Drop by for Africa news. In particular, he notes this column on Liberia by Mark Steyn. Excerpt:

With Iraq, there was no agreement on what the thing was about: it’s all about oil, said the anti-war crowd; it’s about the threat Saddam represents to the world, said the pro-crowd. But with Liberia there’s virtually unanimous agreement: the US has no vital national interest in the country; its tinpot tyrant is no threat to anybody beyond his backyard; the three warring parties are all disgusting and none has the makings of even a halfway civilised government. For many on the Right, these are reasons for steering clear of the place. For the Left, they’re why we need to send the Marines in right now.

It’s precisely the lack of any national interest that makes it appealing to the progressive mind. By intervening in Liberia, you’re demonstrating your moral purity. That’s why all the folks most vehemently opposed to American intervention in Iraq — from Kofi Annan to the Congressional Black Caucus — are suddenly demanding American intervention in Liberia. The New York Times is itching to get in: ‘Three weeks have passed since President Bush called on the Liberian President, Charles Taylor, to step aside, and pledged American assistance in restoring security. But there has been no definitive word here on how or when.

So the question for the Americans is not whether you want to send 2,000 boys in to get picked off for a few months, until whichever warlord is willing to be bought can be installed as head of a provisional government after a token ‘election’ for the benefit of the international community (Taylor held his in 1997). The question is whether you want to commit yourself to fixing West Africa.

West Africa needs fixing, almost as badly as the Middle East. But it’s another case where patience will be required. Are people who already regard Iraq as a “quagmire” — and have done so since April — really willing to go the distance?

Probably. We’re still losing soldiers in Bosnia and you don’t hear much about that. It’s only a quagmire, you see, when certain people are against being there in the first place.

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