As Iraq Goes, So Goes Liberia?
With more than 40 American soldiers killed in Iraq
since the "end" of the war, the
World Liberator last week boasted of the
"progress, steady progress" the United States
has accomplished in what remains of that country. Meanwhile,
the Liberator himself and his Secretary of State were
planning yet another installment of liberation in
We can reasonably expect that the liberation of
Liberia will yield at least as much "steady progress" as
that of Iraq.
But while the liberation of Iraq was mainly the
achievement of the
Israel Firsters who dominate the administration`s
Middle East policy, the liberation of Liberia appears to
be the work of yet another faction of
divided loyalties in the shape of the
Congressional Black Caucus and its
Earlier this month the Washington Post
reported that President Bush`s interest in sending
forces into Liberia to keep whatever "peace" emerges
from the end of its 12-year old civil war is due in part
to the "growing influence of an eclectic lobbying
coalition" that includes the Black Caucus, the
no-whites-allowed club of black members of Congress.[Trip
Marks President`s Turnabout On Africa By Michael
Dobbs, Washington Post, July 7, 2003]
But it also shows the influence of Colin Powell,
"the first African American to serve as the top U.S.
diplomat," and the administration`s other
non-white hood ornament, national security
adviser Condoleezza Rice, "another African American,"
as the Post was careful to describe them, who
"has also played a role in igniting the president`s
interest in Africa."
It was her contribution to emphasize "the peculiar
ties between America and Africa,
dating back to the slave trade," which she
characterized to the Post as "America`s birth
defect." The president, she said, "felt an
obligation to `bring about reconciliation.`"
Mr. Powell has not yet tried to justify American
involvement in Liberia by strumming the guitar of racial
guilt, but he has invoked arguments equally flawed.
Interviewed in the
Washington Times last week, he had a mouthful to
say about Liberia and why Americans should go there.
"In Liberia if you ask the question, `What is our
strategic, vital interest?` it will be hard to define it
that way," Mr. Powell told the Times. "But
we do have an interest in making sure that West Africa
doesn`t simply come apart."
Moreover, "We do have a historic link to Liberia,
and we do have some obligation as the most important and
powerful nation on the face of the earth not to look
away when a problem like this comes before us.” “We
looked away once before in Rwanda, with tragic
consequences. This is not
Rwanda, nor is it
Somalia," (the latter a rather sore subject for
the advocates of triumphalist American "peacekeeping"
Mr. Powell`s justification is perhaps the most
expansive the administration has yet offered, although
that doesn`t help much, since nothing he said makes
Acknowledging that we have no definable "strategic
vital interest" in Liberia, the secretary was thrown
back on generalities and platitudes.
Yes, we may have "an interest" in the stabilization
of West Africa, but it`s not a major interest, and it
doesn`t justify sending troops.
Yes, the situation in Liberia is "tragic," in the
banal sense in which that word is now used, but that too
fails to justify any American military commitment there.
We do have "a historic link to Liberia"—it was
founded as a
dumping ground for ex-slaves—but that was 200
years ago, and it`s really
not that much of a "link." We have far more
substantial "links" to Korea or Vietnam, but nobody
thinks we should send troops back to those places.
Finally, we "looked
away once before in Rwanda," when the locals
happily massacred thousands of people of another
tribe, and wasn`t it terrible "we looked away" and
didn`t send troops to stop the killing?
Well, no, as a matter of fact, there was then and is
today no reason whatsoever the United States should have
sent troops into Rwanda—or any other place on earth
simply to avoid "tragic consequences."
"Tragic consequences" happen all the time,
everywhere, including this country. They are part of the
human condition, which is what real tragedy—the kind
written by Sophocles and Shakespeare—tries to tell us.
What Mr. Powell and Miss Rice are saying is not only
racial guilt obligates us to use military force in
Africa but also that we have the power to escape the
human condition, to become in essence supermen, and
remake the world the way we want it to be.
What real tragedy tells us is that when human beings
try to do that, the result is—tragedy.
That`s what we should have learned in Vietnam and
We are now in the process of learning it in Iraq.
Soon we will be learning it again—in Liberia.
CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
[Sam Francis [email
him] is a nationally syndicated columnist. A selection
of his columns,