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To go to Liberia or not to go -- that is the question

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To go to Liberia or not to go -- that is the question

Charles Krauthammer (archive)

July 11, 2003 | Print | Send

WASHINGTON--It was the left that led the opposition to war in Iraq. Now it is the left that is most strenuous in urging intervention in Liberia. Curious.

No blood for oil, it seems, but blood for Liberia. And let us not automatically assume that Liberia will be an immaculate intervention. Sure, we may get lucky and suffer no casualties. But Liberia has three warring parties, tons of guns and legions of desperate fighters. Yet pressure is inexorably building to send American troops to enforce a peace.

There are the usual suspects, Jesse Jackson and The New York Times, but the most unapologetic proponent of the no-Iraq yes-Liberia school is Howard Dean, Democratic flavor of the month. ``I opposed the war in Iraq because it was the wrong war at the wrong time,'' says Dean, but ``military intervention in Liberia represents an appropriate use of American power.''

Why? In terms of brutality, systematic repression, number of killings, relish for torture, sum total of human misery caused, Charles Taylor is a piker next to Saddam Hussein. That is not to say that Charles Taylor is a better man. It is only to say that in his tiny corner of the world with no oil resources and no scientific infrastructure for developing instruments of mass murder, Taylor has neither the reach nor the power to wreak Saddam-class havoc. What is it that makes liberals like Dean, preening their humanitarianism, so antiwar in Iraq and so pro-intervention in Liberia?

The same question could be asked of the Democratic Party, which in the 1990s opposed the Gulf War but overwhelmingly supported humanitarian interventions in places like Haiti and Kosovo.

They all had a claim on the American conscience. What then was the real difference between, say, Haiti and Gulf War I, and between Liberia and Gulf War II? The Persian Gulf has deep strategic significance for the United States; Haiti and Liberia do not. In both Gulf Wars, critical American national interests were being defended and advanced. Yet it is precisely these interventions that liberals opposed.

The only conclusion one can draw is that for liberal Democrats, America's strategic interests are not just an irrelevance, but a deterrent to intervention. This is a perversity born of moral vanity. For liberals, foreign policy is social work. National interest--i.e., national selfishness--is a taint. The only justified interventions, therefore, are those which are morally pristine, namely, those which are uncorrupted by any suggestion of national interest.

Hence the central axiom of left-liberal foreign policy: The use of American force is always wrong, unless deployed in a region of no strategic significance to the United States.

The war in Afghanistan was an exception, but it doesn't count because it was clearly retaliation against an overt attack, and not even liberals can oppose a counterattack in a war the other side started. Such bolts from the blue are rare, however. They come about every half-century, the last one being Pearl Harbor. In between one has to make decisions about going to war in less axiomatic circumstances. And that is when the liberal Democrats fall into their solipsism of righteousness.

This is the core lunacy of Democratic foreign policy. Either it has no criteria for intervening militarily--after all, if we're going into Liberia, on what grounds are we not going into Congo?--or it has a criterion, and its logic is that the U.S. Army is a missionary service rather than a defender of U.S. interests.

What should be our criteria for military intervention? The answer is simple: strategic and moral necessity. Foreign policy is not social work. Acting for purely humanitarian reasons is wanton and self-indulgent. You don't send American soldiers to die to assuage troubled consciences at home. Their lives should be risked only in defense of their country.

Should we then do nothing elsewhere? In principle, we should try to help others by economic and diplomatic means and with appropriate relief agencies. Regarding Liberia, it is rather odd for the Europeans, who rail against American arrogance, to claim that all the armies of France and Germany, of Europe and Africa are powerless in the face of Charles Taylor--unless the Americans ride to the rescue.

We should be telling them to do the job, with an offer of American logistical help. We have quite enough on our plate in Iraq and Afghanistan and chasing al Qaeda around the world.

If nonetheless, the president finds the pressure irresistible to intervene in Liberia, he should send troops only under very clear conditions: America will share the burden with them if they share the burden with us where we need it. And that means peacekeepers in Iraq. The world cannot stand by watching us bleed in Iraq, and then expect us to bleed for it in Liberia.

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We learned the lesson in Somalia:

"You cannot use international muscle to solve local animosity"

and i think that's why the president and so many others are hestitant to step in. I would be too.

We step in, and the same people who demanded that we go are going to issue other stupid comments, things like "no bullets in the chambers of the weapons", "only fire in retaliation after being struck and then try not to hit anything" and of course my favorite

"no we won't send you tanks or anything else. you can make do with what you have because we're a peace mission, not a war force."

and then we end up with pictures of American soldiers being dragged through the streets because angry ghetto people under civil war dont care who's in their way - they'll blame anyone they can and get their hands on anyone they can.

...and then the same people who demanded we fight "fair" and walk in with the white cloth of justice and peace, are going to scream bloody murder that we actually listened to them and didnt protect our own. THen they'll bitch that we should never have been there in the first place.

Moral of the story: Let em kill each other. We don't belong there.

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i believe the US has historica ties with Liberia. African slaves that returned home after the Civil War founded the country and choose a flag in tribute to the country that had served them as a home for generations and had allowed them to go back to Africa.

you also dont want this to get out of control and end up being another Rwanda, of course many people here could care less.

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Originally posted by vicman

you also dont want this to get out of control and end up being another Rwanda, of course many people here could care less.

Just the people of the U.S. don't care??

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I know i certainly don't fucking care.

I can't find Liberia on a map, let alone give a shit. More civil war - blahblahblah. There's ALWAYS civil war in africa somewhere and its always the same. fuckin' A, weren't 200 people killed in riots over the miss america pageant when a writer suggested that Mohammed might have chosen one of the lovely ladies to be his wife?

and we want to step inbetween the bullets and say "hey, why don't we sit down and discuss things?"

if we learned one thing from Somalia its this:

African warlords don't want compromise. They want victory.

The ones who compromise are doing so because they aren't strong enough to take what they want outright. That leaves the rival clans with "something to lose" by compromising and study your history folks... Clans don't like trading away an advantage just to have peace. They want victory, not peace. If peace happens to come with victory, so be it.

we don't need to be there and i would prefer we let them fight it out.

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Originally posted by cintron

I know i certainly don't fucking care.

I can't find Liberia on a map, let alone give a shit. More civil war - blahblahblah. There's ALWAYS civil war in africa somewhere and its always the same. fuckin' A, weren't 200 people killed in riots over the miss america pageant when a writer suggested that Mohammed might have chosen one of the lovely ladies to be his wife?

and we want to step inbetween the bullets and say "hey, why don't we sit down and discuss things?"

if we learned one thing from Somalia its this:

African warlords don't want compromise. They want victory.

The ones who compromise are doing so because they aren't strong enough to take what they want outright. That leaves the rival clans with "something to lose" by compromising and study your history folks... Clans don't like trading away an advantage just to have peace. They want victory, not peace. If peace happens to come with victory, so be it.

we don't need to be there and i would prefer we let them fight it out.

I am leaning with you.....I think we should stay the fuck out....

But as usual, the U.S. will get slammed either way (especially the leftist hypocrites in this country)......either we get kiiled for being the world policeman or we get killed for not intervening....

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Originally posted by cintron

I know i certainly don't fucking care.

I can't find Liberia on a map, let alone give a shit. More civil war - blahblahblah. There's ALWAYS civil war in africa somewhere and its always the same. fuckin' A, weren't 200 people killed in riots over the miss america pageant when a writer suggested that Mohammed might have chosen one of the lovely ladies to be his wife?

in nigeria, that happened, and that was a totally different issue than what is going on right now in liberia. it's on the western coast of africa, by ghana, cote d'ivore, etc...and the reason for civil war is that people have been stripped pretty much of a lot of what they could have used to raise themselves politically, socially, economically (self-respect, natural resources,education, etc) little wonder they are fighting...they have no idea what to do now and how to bring themselves into this so called "modern period" we are living in...

and we want to step inbetween the bullets and say "hey, why don't we sit down and discuss things?" no other obvious reason for this except ulterior political motives from the bush administration. funny how all of a sudden, africa is now becoming an issue here. i wonder why. :blank:

if we learned one thing from Somalia its this:

African warlords don't want compromise. They want victory.

The ones who compromise are doing so because they aren't strong enough to take what they want outright. That leaves the rival clans with "something to lose" by compromising and study your history folks... Clans don't like trading away an advantage just to have peace. They want victory, not peace. If peace happens to come with victory, so be it.

we don't need to be there and i would prefer we let them fight it out. you speak as if you know about this a great deal. but you contradict yourself before with saying you can't even find liberia on a map....i don't think you really have it. but that's your opinion.

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Originally posted by igloo

I am leaning with you.....I think we should stay the fuck out....

But as usual, the U.S. will get slammed either way (especially the leftist hypocrites in this country)......either we get kiiled for being the world policeman or we get killed for not intervening....

i actually agree...:eek:

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Originally posted by igloo

Not that strange that you agree, since you subscribe to that theory, and project that hypcritical thought in your statements

wrong. and wrong. don't be a dickhead.

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Originally posted by sassa

you speak as if you know about this a great deal. but you contradict yourself before with saying you can't even find liberia on a map....i don't think you really have it. but that's your opinion.

You're right. I can't find Liberia on a map, nor do I care to.

However, having an uncle and a cousin who were part of Task Force Ranger on that fateful day in mogadishu, I've gotten a good idea on how easily things can go awry, especially in war torn cities. The thing about Somalia was that it was essentially BELOW zero. You speak about civil liberties and such as if that's a thing that existed in Mog. The fact is that Somalia was a country whose very means of recovery and rebuilding were destroyed. It's basically like being transported back to the stone ages and in all of t hat, there were warring factions, just like in Liberia.

It doesn't matter where you are - Civil War is Civil War. It's hard enough when its two sides, but when you've got three or four warring factions, it's impossible to bring about peace. You can't attack all of them because they'll simply turn on you instead and drive you out or manipulate you to their advantage. You can't appease them because if they'd wanted to negotiate and share power, they wouldn't be warring factions.

you don't need a map to figure that out, or to realize that it would only be a losing situation for us to go in there and be the shining white knight peacekeeper. We'd get bogged down, soldiers would get killed and on top of that, our resources are already stretched all across the globe in afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the war against terrorism. I supported bush up to this point but here's where the buck stops. We have no reason to be there and people can accuse me of not being an "expert" all they want. Experts don't know shit anyways.

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Originally posted by cintron

You're right. I can't find Liberia on a map, nor do I care to.

However, having an uncle and a cousin who were part of Task Force Ranger on that fateful day in mogadishu, I've gotten a good idea on how easily things can go awry, especially in war torn cities. The thing about Somalia was that it was essentially BELOW zero. You speak about civil liberties and such as if that's a thing that existed in Mog. The fact is that Somalia was a country whose very means of recovery and rebuilding were destroyed. It's basically like being transported back to the stone ages and in all of t hat, there were warring factions, just like in Liberia.

It doesn't matter where you are - Civil War is Civil War. It's hard enough when its two sides, but when you've got three or four warring factions, it's impossible to bring about peace. You can't attack all of them because they'll simply turn on you instead and drive you out or manipulate you to their advantage. You can't appease them because if they'd wanted to negotiate and share power, they wouldn't be warring factions.

you don't need a map to figure that out, or to realize that it would only be a losing situation for us to go in there and be the shining white knight peacekeeper. We'd get bogged down, soldiers would get killed and on top of that, our resources are already stretched all across the globe in afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere in the war against terrorism. I supported bush up to this point but here's where the buck stops. We have no reason to be there and people can accuse me of not being an "expert" all they want. Experts don't know shit anyways.

ok. then why do you think bush is in africa now? his motives? your opinion?

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Why is Bush in Africa? First of all it's a great photo op. Second Africa is rich of natural resources, diamonds, gold, oil, etc. Not that I'm knocking Bush for visiting Senegal, Botswana and Nigeria. I think he made a good decision in visiting those nations. The problem with Africa is that it's rich in resources but fucked up in government. I'm not buying the "blame the colonial powers" excuse anymore either. Every country there has been independent for some time already.

But as far as Liberia goes I think we're screwed either way. If we go then the whole world will call us "imperialist pigs" like they're not already. If we don't then the whole world will call us "callous, uncaring pigs". This is definitely a no-win situation and the fact that Liberia has historically had close ties with the U.S.A. is going to put the pressure on us too.

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Originally posted by homersimpson

Why is Bush in Africa? First of all it's a great photo op. Second Africa is rich of natural resources, diamonds, gold, oil, etc. Not that I'm knocking Bush for visiting Senegal, Botswana and Nigeria. I think he made a good decision in visiting those nations. The problem with Africa is that it's rich in resources but fucked up in government. I'm not buying the "blame the colonial powers" excuse anymore either. Every country there has been independent for some time already.

But as far as Liberia goes I think we're screwed either way. If we go then the whole world will call us "imperialist pigs" like they're not already. If we don't then the whole world will call us "callous, uncaring pigs". This is definitely a no-win situation and the fact that Liberia has historically had close ties with the U.S.A. is going to put the pressure on us too.

there's my answer, Sassa.

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considering that one of the listed reasons for going into iraq was for humanitarian aid (often brought up when WMD argument is questioned).....the US is now "on the hook" with the international community for humanitarian aid.

its not suprising at all that we are being called upon to help stabilize Liberia. I fear, however, that we will be called on intervening in Congo.

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Originally posted by bigpoppanils

considering that one of the listed reasons for going into iraq was for humanitarian aid (often brought up when WMD argument is questioned).....the US is now "on the hook" with the international community for humanitarian aid.

its not suprising at all that we are being called upon to help stabilize Liberia. I fear, however, that we will be called on intervening in Congo.

I agree only somehwat, in that while humanitarian reasons were justification for Iraq, U.S. national interests were also at stake...

Also the U.S. intervened for humanitarian reasons numerous times before Iraq (i.e. Somalia), so I am not sure about "being on the hook"...

AGain, why can't the UN handle this?

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