Does the U.S. Have a Special Relationship with Liberia?

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Mr. Radu is Senior Fellow and Co-Chair, Center on Terrorism and Counterterrorism, at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia.

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Liberia is a mess. As usual we are being blamed for the mess. The reason Liberia is a failed state? It's the United States' neglect. That is the expressed opinion of Liberian president Charles Taylor, and there are many in the United States and elsewhere who share Taylor's premise that Washington is somehow responsible, at least morally, for Liberia's predicament, and hence somehow obliged to fix it, by sending troops there.

We are being told that, since Liberia was established by freed American slaves more than a century and a half ago (in 1847), America remains responsible for its fate, a paternalistic but convenient position. Not surprisingly, such claims come from the very same U.S. liberals (along with the Moravian mobs) who opposed the Iraq intervention but strongly pushed for the use of the Marines in Kosovo, Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti - in short, everywhere some mushy "humanitarian" cause popped up, but not where the security and national interests of this country were clearly involved. Marines as social workers are fine, but Marines as Marines are proof of American imperialism.

It is useful to review the actual history of Liberia's founding. Quakers, who were skeptical of America's ability to fully integrate liberated slaves, and Southern slave holders, who were disturbed by the "bad example" of free slaves in their midst, combined to find a solution by relocating them to Africa, as if that were some homogeneous and unified place all blacks came from and any part of it would do. They followed the precedent of the British, who dumped slaves found on trading ships captured by their Navy on the west coast of Africa, in what has recently became both Liberia's victim and fellow failure, Sierra Leone.

At the time, nobody in official Washington considered Liberia a "moral obligation," and indeed the United States did not even recognize the country until after the American Civil War, and with good reason. The behavior of the transplanted former American slaves was already nothing to be proud of, and it got worse with the time. As Liberian columnist Tarty Teh put it,

'These returned slaves kept us, African Liberians, as field slaves for well over 130 years in the land of our ancestors. For nearly a century and a half they gradually promoted us into the rough equivalent of house slaves when they domesticated a few of us by helping us sport such names as George Washington, Robert Kennedy, George Wallace, etc., as our new identities and as testimony of our acquired elegance. But the bulk of us remained Africans because we could not help it. For daring to remain Africans we, in the eyes of the ruling Americos, forfeited our rights to any aspiration beyond being tolerated by the snobbish descendants of ex-slaves." (Tarty Teh, "Liberia Is Being P.U.S.H.ed by Rev. Jesse Jackson," May 24, 2000,

Indeed, the small American-Liberian elite established what amounted to official apartheid for the duration of its rule, which lasted up to 1980. Native tribal blacks, always a huge majority, were treated as obviously inferior, remained uneducated and poor, were often sold as de facto slaves ("contract laborers") to plantations in Spanish Guinea (now Equatorial Guinea) and only received the right to vote in 1946, ninety-nine years after independence. From the late 1860s until 1980 Liberia was a one-party state, under the True Whig Party. Seen in this context, Liberia's mimicking the American flag, using the American dollar, and naming its capital, Monrovia, after James Monroe, appear more as insults to Americans than a cause for emotional and historic fellowship.

And then, in 1980, the oppressed tribals had their revenge: a coup led by the illiterate Sergeant Major Samuel Doe captured and shot President William Tolbert and his cabinet members. Following a by-then rich African tradition represented by the likes of Idi Amin, Jean Bedel Bokassa and Macias Nguema, Doe gave himself phony titles, including "doctor," and misruled the country until other tribes rebelled. In 1990 Doe was captured, mutilated, and murdered - all on videotape.

Meanwhile, Charles Taylor, educated in part (and jailed) in Boston, escaped prison and obtained the support of Moammar Ghadafi and his regional proxy, the leader of one of the world's smallest and poorest nations, Burkina Fasso, and made his own bid for power. By 1997 he has killed or intimidated enough people to be "elected" president. In no time at all he had invented "opposition groups" in neighboring Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Ivory Coast - and cashed in diamonds and other booty. None of this, naturally enough, prevented the likes of Rev. Jesse Jackson from visiting Taylor and treating him as a long-lost brother.

But Taylor overextended himself, and his neighbors realized that his was a game that others could play as well. Guinea, with American support, and Ivory Coast, with French support, encouraged, armed, and paid some of the masses of unemployed young Liberian refugees in their territories to go back, and soon a number of anti-Taylor "national" and "democratic" organizations had appeared, who are now cornering Taylor in the capital. Meanwhile, a UN-sponsored tribunal in Sierra Leone has indicted Taylor for crimes against humanity - an indictment that does not seem to impress the government of "Africa's giant," Nigeria, the self- proclaimed regional power, which offered him a comfortable and safe asylum. Nor did it prevent the Rev. Pat Robertson from making deals with Taylor and from realizing that the latter's Baptist faith (?) gives all Baptists a bad name.

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This is the "country" we are supposed to have a moral obligation to and to which we are asked to send troops to restore a "democracy" that never existed, the power of a corrupt and by now largely dead or emigrated American-Liberian elite? A country with no institutions, no sense of nationhood, no infrastructure, no limit to its needs or, worse still, to the exaggerated expectations of a destitute and chaotic population? If the Haiti intervention was a failure, an intervention in Liberia would be a tragedy, and for similar reasons. Where there is no country and there are no citizens or institutions , no amount of Marines or dollars can invent them.

If the newly established African Union wants to be taken seriously, it should prove that it is capable of doing something for and in Liberia , rather than spend its energies debating whether the AU parliament should be located in Capetown or Tripoli. The British have temporarily stabilized Sierra Leone, which should remain "stable" as long as the paratroopers stay there and not one minute longer. The French are doing the same in Ivory Coast, with similar short-term success. Whatever Paris and London's reasons for deciding to get into the swamps of their former colonies, their actions do not mean that Washington has to do the same in a place that, far from being a former American colony, was a caricature of America.

President Bush should make it clear that Liberia is not a place of national interest for the United States, that we have no moral or other obligation toward it, and that no commitment of American lives should be expected, only possibly some (very) temporary logistical and financial support for an African or UN force. As a good Texan would put it, the US does not have a dog in the Liberian fight.

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Dave Livingston - 8/15/2003

For a change of pace, for once I largely agree with Ralph Luker. In this instance, we should't be playing policeman in Africa, nor most anywhere else in the world.

Once a soldier, 1st Infantry Division, Viet-Nam, 1966-7; 101st Airborne, Viet-Nam, 1969-70,I ddeply resent politicans treating the troops as expendable pawns. This regardless I yet strongly believe we were correct in the natiuonal interests of the U.S. and the West as a whole to have fought as long and hard as we did in 'Nam.

On the other hand, once a Peace Corps Volunteer in Liberia, 1962-4, I believe too we do have more of a commitment to Liberia than to most other countries in the world. In many respects Liberia is (was before this latest civil war?) a reflection of early 19th Century Colored Southern America, hundreds, if not thousands, of Liberian extended families have branches living in the U.S. more or less permanently, U.S. commercial enterprises have deep and long-standing ties with Liberia. For instance, the second largest rubber plantation in the world is Firestone's in Liberia (btw, the largest is Michelin's in South Viet-Nam). Goodyear too has a large rubber plantation in Liberia. Most of the Liberian elite are educated over here.

The last I knew, forty years ago, Liberia didn't print its own currency, but rather used the U.S. Greenback as its currency. Most Protestant Christian missions in Liberia are based in the U.S. Perhaps half of the Catholic priests serving as missionaires in Liberia were (are) Americans.

While most of the ties between the U.S. & Liberia are informal broadly they have fostered a very strong Liberian commitment to the U.S. Because Liberian culture promotes a dependency relationship between individuals, for instance it is nearly de rigueur that a man of substance have many informal dependents some Liberians cannot understand our reluctance to accept them as a dependent society.

Only a couple of months ago a Liberian acquaintance from long ago offered to enslave himself to me, if I'd help him leave Liberia. He no doubt cannot quite understand why I wouldn't accept his request. On the other hand, one of the wealthiest (and independent) men I know is a Liberian, albeit he now lives in Nigeria. But his mother lives in New Jersey with another son, an M.D.

In short, I strongly favor the intervention of (a limited number of) U.S. troops in Liberia, if thst helps bring peace. IMHO President Bush has dealt with the situation rather well (he could have moved a mite faster), demanding West African assistance before we got into it. Because most Liberians, yes, including many tribesmen, are strongly pro-American there is nearly no chance of our becoming bogged down in a Somilia style mess there. By & large Liberia is a friendly environment for Americans.

No, we shouldn't commit troops to preserve Chase Manhattan's, which has a branch in Monrovia (of course named for James Monroe) profits, but a small temporary commitment of troops helping to stabilize the country is not costly for us. And if nothing else it will boost our national image throughout West Africa.

Bill Heuisler - 7/28/2003

Mr. Greenland,
Okay, I call and raise. To demonstrate your stature you deign to comment on my honesty. You say, "He keeps spewing out false statements, including historical ones".

That's fair enough in debate and you're entitled to your little pretensions, but there's a risk. Pomposity without prestige has its own penalties, and is generally not worth answering, but I can't pass up a chance to make you look even more ineffectual.

Back up your comment with a specific instance of one false historical statement. Inability to produce an example will clearly illustrate the weight and status of your opinions.
Bill Heuisler

NYGuy - 7/28/2003

Hey Josh you Twit,

As the resident, "non-academic" you obviously assume the role of promoting a false propaganda about name calling. Ralph finds that technique to be perfectly acceptable and we notice that you are not above such tactics. Are you part of the censure police to determine what can be said. I thought that was the role of HNN. Self inflated ego.

What does one call someone who says, don't do what I do, do what I say. I will leave it up to the reader to answer.

Meanwhile, it is this type of post that proves you are not an academic. Yawn.

Josh Greenland - 7/28/2003

"I'm not going to encourage you to continue asserting things that are not true. Your points reduce to name-calling. It is no wonder you love Coulter."

Ralph, I agree with you on Heuisler as well. He keeps spewing out false statements, including historical ones, and he can't or won't stop the name-calling. He's another one I rarely read anymore, for those reasons. You clearly have a lot more patience that I do.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/28/2003

Get over yourself, Bill. "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" and I still think you're a better man than that. I don't read _The Nation_, I'm not a Democrat, I'm not "anti-American" and I'm not "whimpering" about you. In case you hadn't noticed, the administration's rationale for the war in the lead up to it _is_ coming apart. It wasn't an act of patriotism to mislead us into Iraq II. The invasion may even have been, on balance, necessary. I'm a historian and I think that the verdict is still out on that question.

Bill Heuisler - 7/27/2003

You'd rather whimper about me than defend misstatements about the US? At least Ann Coulter defends her statements.

You wrote, "when the rationale for the Iraq war crumbles...". Total anti-War, anti-American BS. You were challenged and never answered. Did you forget which issue of the Nation you quoted? If you don't want to be criticized, don't attack the US with baseless Democrat Talking Points on a History site.
Bill Heuisler

Ralph E. Luker - 7/27/2003

I'm not going to encourage you to continue asserting things that are not true. Your points reduce to name-calling. It is no wonder you love Coulter.

Bill Heuisler - 7/27/2003

You wrote, "Being a vicious tyrant has never been the quid pro quo for being toppled by American military action." And for the fourth time in this discussion missed the point. Or do you lack any arguments other than complaining because you sound like an apologist for Saddam (you do) and repeating Leftist mantras.

Let me explain something: Ignoring Saddam's violations of treaties and merely calling him a tyrant says more about either your sophistication or your motives than you might think.

The Gulf War began when Saddam invaded Kuwait. It continued through sixteen breaches of a Cease Fire Agreement and came to a second combat phase after Saddam ignored a UN resolution. Tell me what you don't understand. Do you pretend this is not true? Do you think history can be remade for your convenience?

Answer the question for a change.
Bill Heuisler

NYGuy - 7/27/2003


The answer is the U. N. not Bush. Historians want to bring the troops home and let the U. S. take over. Bush has to consider their position.

Don't you think this is a better approach than asking our troops to put their lives in greater danger. The U. S. may become more susceptible to terrorism, but life is not perfect.

This is not "Contempt for Africans" which I think is very misleading and does not define the true debate.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/27/2003

Bill, Bill, Bill,
"You act as though Saddam was a victim of US imperialism." When you begin with a malicious lie like this, you can move down from there. You write as tho opponents of this war were not overwhelmingly in agreement with its supporters that Saddam Hussein was a vicious tyrant. But the world is populated with vicious tyrants. Being a vicious tyrant has never been the quid pro quo for being toppled by American military action. Indeed, the United States has put some of them in place and sustained others of them by our foreign aid.
As you know, if you read my post carefully, I am _not_ making a plea for more humanitarian military ventures. I am simply saying that that is all that the administration has left to rely on and it isn't a rationale that will suffice because we have systematically ignored such a rationale in so many other instances.

Bill Heuisler - 7/26/2003

Repeating a false premise is not going to make it fact. You act as though Saddam was a victim of US imperialism. You keep saying things like, "the rationale for the Iraq war crumbles in its aftermath." Then, like a blind knight with a broken lance, you charge through hypotheticals into crowds of suppositions.

The Gulf War began when Saddam invaded Kuwait. It continued through sixteen breaches of a Cease Fire Agreement and came to a second combat phase after Saddam ignored a UN resolution. Tell me what you don't understand. Do you pretend this is not true? Do you think history can be remade for your convenience?

A humanitarian military has become a tragic joke since Beirut and Mogadishu. Has this slipped your mind? Did your concern for Humanity only awaken after President Clinton pretended the Rwanda genocide didn't exist or did you protest then also?

As to crumbling rationales, when the Iraqi equivalent of White Sands is discovered will you apologize to Dick and W and rend your garments for Arab honor? Will you commit seppuku in front of the Clinton library? Of course not. You'll find some new specious reason to protest W's successful assault on terrorism.

NYGuy - 7/26/2003


Are you encouraging Empire Building by the U. S and a search for new oil resources by the Bush-Chaney oil tycoons?

I thought the U. N. was providing the leadership in overcoming human suffering. Haven't they been doing a good job over the past 56 years? Many historians disagree with you and believe the U. N. is the one who should provide the leadership, and the U. S. should bring our troops home.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/25/2003

Bill, I don't blindly endorse everything in the piece, any more than I blindly endorse every public policy action of this administration. It isn't "anti-American" to wonder why, when the rationale for the Iraq war crumbles in its aftermath, the administration rolls out a humanitarian rationale -- just the sort of thing that the neo-cons have poo-pooed ever since Jimmy Carter's presidency -- and when there is as obvious a humanitarian need in Liberia and an even more obvious one in the Congo, where 3,000,000 have been said to have been killed in the last decade. If our foreign policy is to be directed by humanitarian concerns, as you would think it is if you listen now to administration spokesmen, its going to look a whole look different than it has for the last 25 years. I want U. S. troops in Burma, in the Congo, in Liberia -- anywhere and everywhere humanity is suffering. And don't any of you dare quote me out of context!

Bill Heuisler - 7/25/2003

Okay Ralph,
The Tom Paine article was interesting, but you must admit, one-sided. The writer left the impression that pre-Doe Liberia was all grins and bubbles. He neglected to mention how a small minority of "Americos" lorded it over the natives, ruled as an oligarchy and created massive resentment. He writes as though Doe was created from thin air and reinforced by President Reagan. Doe's strength was the Army. Reagan was faced with a fait accompli. After the revolt the money fled and the economy shut down. Should he have let Liberians starve? The US is always wrong on the pages of Tom Paine. Doesn't that give you pause?

The article also creates a convenient falsehood. He writes:
"But the greatest difference between other nations where our troops have landed and Liberia is that in Liberia we are welcome."
A grandiose and transparent falsehood born of wishful thinking and, apparently, a blind hatred of America. From Grenada through Afganistan to Iraq we are welcomed by the common man on the street who just wants to live in peace and freedom. To write otherwise is ahistoric and implies ignorant readers. You're not ignorant, Ralph. How did you miss such omissions and falsehoods?
Bill Heuisler

Ralph E. Luker - 7/25/2003

Try Ronald Reagan's $500 million gift to Sam K. Doe for American responsibility for the mess that has destroyed Liberia:

Thomas Cripps - 7/25/2003

There is no way that I can pass for a scholar of Liberian life and history; I am moved to write only because of the callous way in which Liberia is being dismissed as a subhuman creature spawned by the murderous Charles Taylor and the equally murderous 'rebels' he opposes. Leaving them to their awful rewards simply because we hate their violence smells startling like the laissez faire racism through which we Europeans abandoned Rwanda and Burundi and Congo to their fates. Like Cecil Rhodes we seem to act only when our diamonds (or uranium or oil) are at stake. And yet we do have a more humanely driven stake there. The African Methodist Episcopal Church has a presence there as high as the level of, I think, Bishop. I know African Americans who support schools there (one in particular I seem to remember, Codrington Academy, was supported by a steady flow of private black funds) The ubiquitous American 'foreign aid' can be found in many forms put there to protect African, first from Nazis, then from Soviets. Roberts international airport and the multilane freeway that leads to it are typical--six paved lanes, most often traveled by rickety, colorful taxicabs and mule carts. Everywhere, of course, are the visible artifacts of the American connection: all sorts of public buildings, the currency, the flag, and so on. But the single characteristic American presence is kept hidden: the acres--indeed, square miles--of Firestone rubber trees where so many of what I took to be 'contract laborers' worked. I had to plead to be taken there by my hosts. Thus the other qualities of Liberian life--the squalor, the endless smell of death--are all allowed to seem disconnected from any outside force. The old tribal system is in ruins because endless radio commercials urged the young to ignore their elders and come to Monrovia fors cars and tv and beer. The urban life is in a shambles of huts from the open fronts of which a few tokens of western life are sold--tvs, radios, and such--all on streets named Broadway and Baltimore Street and Maryland Avenue (particularly poignant for a Marylander in whose state part of the American Colonization Society (the staunchest advocates of the new nation of Liberia) operated. Most ironically, a traditional power base in the country was the African American masonic order, a two centuries old fraternal and eleemosynary society here, but there a circle of political absolutists rooted in the Americo-Liberian caste. I take the trouble to relate these matters gleaned from only one week-long visit and a couple of hundred pages of reading. But it is a tiny handful of bittersweet memories that color my impressions. Near the Firestone plantations, small children chopped wood with sharpened mattocks to earn a few pennies. Taxicabs that look as though they cannot survive another mile often had brightly painted, optimistic slogans on their rear ends: one of these wrecks I recall said to whatever drivers followed him: "Please do not reproach me for my good fortune." Young men lounged across the hoods of parked, shining Benzs, awaiting a small tip before they would move. Radios blared in the streets about products no one could afford. One of my hosts, a middle level cabinet member, proudly told me he was the first of his family to go to college and, as was the custom, when his family was to give a small gift at commencement, they perfomed a dance because they had no cash. When another host offered me a guided tour of Monrovia the trip included not the expected historic sites but rather the stakes on the beach where firing squads had killed the outgoing cabinet, the John F. Kennedy Hospital, an underfunded relic of the l960s which was now known as "JFK--Just for Killing," and finally to the burned out villas of the outgoing government officials. In a visitor's remoteness from the meaning of all of this tragedy, I ate in a French restaurant that was, I was told, "quite good, one of the best in Africa." Perhaps now, never mind whether we are one or the other of those empty rubrics, 'Liberal' or 'Conservative,' could we not do the decent thing and save a few lives, save Liberians from themselves and from what we have done to them?

John Philips - 7/24/2003

Obviously the US has a special relationship with Liberia, and has used that relationship to its advantage, e.g. in World War II.

Obviously the US bears some responsibility for the mess in Liberia, and you don't have to go back to antebellum times to find it. The strong support given to Sargeant Doe (or Chairman Moe as his staunch supporter President Reagan once referred to him) helped create the mess that Taylor stepped into. Jesse Jackson was far from the only US politician who helped support tyranny in Liberia.

But the US will not step into the Liberian mess without clear national interest (or at least perceived personal interest by the president) in doing so. The countries with a clear interest in cleaning up the Liberian mess are its neighbors in ECOWAS. They should be the ones to take action. The US should help them financially to the extent that it is able, and has an interest in doing so. We do have an interest, because you never know when you will need a pro-American Liberian next.

But of course, if humanitarianism is the excuse for our invasion of Iraq, we have no choice but to intervene in Liberia, Equatorial Guinea, etc. etc. etc. or appear hypocritical.

Does the present US administration mind appearing hypocritical?

Bill Heuisler - 7/24/2003

Just read a review in Foreign Affairs 9/2001 10/2001 of Wrong's book about the Congo and Mobuto.

One paragraph talks about, "the equally powerful precolonial roots of the Congo's oppression. Long before the Europeans arrived, the country already had a tradition that emphasized personal power and authority, ostentatious displays of wealth, and politics based on patron-client relations maintained through the distribution of resources. The Kingdom of the Kongo, for example, which lasted from the fourteenth to the seventeenth century -- and which Wrong does mention briefly -- ruled using patterns of power similar to Mobutu's, basing its support on tribute collected and distributed by the king, the ManiKongo."

More research when I get the time, but there's an obvious pattern and Europeans haven't changed things all that much.

Bill Heuisler - 7/24/2003

Calling our response to Hussein's defiance of the world and multiple breaches of the 1991 Cease-fire agreement "rationale" and "run-up to war" is simply silly and you know it. I thought you were kidding. Unless you think W is a liar and a criminal.

As to the other questions, they all roll together into Liberal mantras Like: Western feeding frenzy is responsible for African instability or employing Africans is the same as exploiting them. As to punting back a century, We're talking about Liberia in 2003 and you drop back to the writings of Edward Morel and Roger Casement about the terrible conditions in Leopold's Congo.
Let's see...wasn't that about a hundred years ago?

Ralph E. Luker - 7/24/2003

Bill, Thanks for the history lesson. It's a common strategy in arguing about history to fall back a century and punt. I do note, however, that you attempted a reply to only one of my 4 answers to your 4 queries.
By the way, I had lunch with Derek here in Atlanta on Tuesday. He's on a long research trip, but he'll rejoin the fray when he's back in Minnesota.

Bill Heuisler - 7/24/2003

Contempt for all things African? Look in the mirror. Liberal low-expectation based on ethnicity/race continues with you. Proof?
You say,"leaders of post-colonial African states have been unable to escape the examples set for them by colonial rule. It is important to recall that the 20th century's first holocaust occurred in the Belgian Congo."

Your point perversely insults Africans and badly underestimates historians. Restricting argument to the Twentieth Century is convenient for you, but unfair to those monstrous Belgians.

A Liberal's contempt for the African extends even to doubting his ability to conduct a proper holocaust. Read your African history, my friend, and notice how Africans committed genocide long before being defiled by evil Europeans. At the beginniong of the Nineteenth Century Shaka and Mzilikazi committed the Mfecane (the crushing) on the inland plateau of southeastern Africa. At least two million abaNtu people died in a decade that virtually depopulated what later became the Orange Free State. In fact, when the Boers trekked northwest of the Drakensberg in 1836 they passed through hundreds of miles of empty, but fertile country peopled only with moldered ubaNtu bones.

There are many other examples, but naive Leftist historians who gleefully combine pseudo history and Euro-guilt to make warped anti-western sociopolitical points have become tiresome. Does anyone really believe this crap or is self-flagellation by western pedagogues a rite of passage?
Bill Heuisler

jim - 7/24/2003

Re Kriz: Bush, and the Republican Party generally, would like to win over some black voters. In a country that divided right down the middle in the last election, a small shift in this Democratic stronghold could be significant. However, don't expect Bush to engage in the shameful demonstration of black ass-kissing that each of the Democratic hopefuls engaged in last week. ("Oh, Mr. Mfume, you should be a supreme court justice.") Also, don't expect Bush to engage in pointless military campaigns to win black votes, like the failed mission into Haiti that Clinton ordered so as to please Kweisi and the rest of the Congressional Black Caucus.

Those calling for US intervention in Liberia are playing the race card with a view to the next election. The subtext is this: Bush will go to war for oil, but not for blacks. Vote for the ass-kissing Democrat.

Ralph E. Luker - 7/24/2003

1)To a large degree, leaders of post-colonial African states have been unable to escape the examples set for them by colonial rule. It is important to recall that the 20th century's first holocaust occurred in the Belgian Congo. European rulers were responsible for what Kurtz called "The horror. The horror."
2)Now that its rationale for the run-up to war in Iraq has collapsed, the Bush administration's primary fall back position is a humanitarian argument. The problem with humanitarian arguments is: why do you invoke it here and not there?
3)We both know that the feeding frenzy for West African oil and diamonds has driven the instability of countries in that region. Cash payments alone don't guarantee that ordinary people get paid for work. They can be forced to work if the alternative is, literally, losing an arm or a leg.
4)Radu's "unreleaved contempt for all things African" could stem from racism, but not necessarily. I don't have the evidence to back up a charge that it does, so I don't make it. But if you read his essay I don't see how you can avoid seeing an "unreleaved contempt for all things African."

Pseudoerasmus - 7/23/2003

Radu is clearly one of the most incompetent polemicists I've ever read.

Before I read his analysis of the Liberian conflict, I would have said the USA had no moral obligation whatever to intervene. But now that I have Radu's piece on Liberia, it's clear that that the USA does have such a moral obligation!

According to Radu, the present Liberian mess can be traced to the conflict between the native tribals and the descendants of American slaves who were relocated to Africa by American Quakers and southerners, "as if [Africa] were some homogeneous and unified place all blacks came from and any part of it would do". It would be reasonable to assume that the present conflict would not exist if these American Quakers and southerners had not dumped the freed American slaves in any old location in Africa. So how can one say the USA does not have some responsibility?

Bill Heuisler - 7/23/2003

1) Please explain how an arbitrary line drawn a century ago affected Doe, Amin, Mugabe or even Buthelezi for that matter.

2) Either we get out of (post colonial) Africa or we don't. Our Marines shouldn't be used to assuage projected guilt.

3) We
pay cash for the oil we take from the fields we designed and developed, through pipes we engineered and from the sweat of people we employ. Oil is the only cash crop for some African countries and those who criticize our thirst should imagine starving African children when we're eventually sated.

Radu had better be careful what he discusses and criticizes.
In an earlier posting in a land far far away a suggestion was made that parts of Africa were worse off since European and Indian colonists left. After the word racist was hurled the subject was dropped. We should probably assume your asking if anyone noticed, "an unreleaved contempt for all things African" was an oblique charge of racism and a warning that certain discussions/opinions were forbidden. Thanks for the warning.
Bill Heuisler

Ralph E. Luker - 7/22/2003

Sue, Maybe you call 3 or 4 dozen troops in Liberia an "intervention." It isn't enough to give leadership to a security force largely manned by other west African states. I suspect that the administration hasn't done anything about Sao Tome and Principe _because_ the need and the historical connection to Liberia is so much greater and, despite the after the fact rationale for our intrusion in Iraq is a humanitarian one, the defense department really doesn't want to engage in humanitarian gestures.

Suetonius - 7/22/2003

"Whisper in George Bush's shell-like ear that substantial oil reserves lie off the coast of Sao Tome and Principe and we'll have a dog in that fight quick enough." we'd be intervening in the coup that occurred there last week? Following your logic, the U.S. should have jumped into that fray in order to ensure that the right leaders are in place to secure the agreement signed last year to offer a naval base in Sao Tome. Or maybe the U.S. would be going in to Cameroon, which is at the end of the new pipeline from Chad being run by ExxonMobile and ChevronTexaco.

Or perhaps it isn't really about oil, but about stability and interests. It's funny how the only reason the U.S. is intervening in Liberia is because the rest of the international community demanded it. Yet did anyone bat an eyelid when the French went into Cote D'Ivoire or the Central African Republic? Nope.

Stephen Kriz - 7/22/2003

Mr. Luker:

You nailed it in at least two respects:

(1) It was European colonialists that arbitrarily drew the boundaries in Africa that have left festering sores there for over a hundred years. The same was true of the British in Iraq after the fall of the Ottoman empire in the early 1900's. The British glommed together disparate groups like the Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen and wondered why all hell broke loose after they did. We are repeating the same mistake today in Iraq, trying to force an arbitrarily cobbled-together country on the people, instead of allowing the tribal factions to claim their own territories and establish self-governance as they see fit.
(2) If there was a pocket of oil in Liberia bigger than that at your local Mobil station, Bush, Cheney and their petro-pirate friends would be in there quicker than you can say impeachment. Something tells me Bush's inclination to visit Africa and offer even a token degree of help in Liberia arises more from the fact that 90% of African-Americans voted against him in 2000, than it does from any heartfelt compassion for the black race.

Bush would chisel his granny's front teeth out if he thought the gold in them would fetch a good price.....

Peace is the only answer,

Stephen Kriz

Ralph E. Luker - 7/21/2003

Does anyone else notice in this piece an unreleaved contempt for all things African? In his rush to indict such places as Liberia, the Ivory Coast, Sierra Leone, and Burkina Faso for being "no country" and for having "no citizens or institutions," Radu ignores the fact that it was Europeans who ignored tribal identities and drew arbitrary lines on the face of Africa. That allows Radu to hold African places up to contemptuous comparison with European nation/states and find the Africans wanting. Whisper in George Bush's shell-like ear that substantial oil reserves lie off the coast of Sao Tome and Principe and we'll have a dog in that fight quick enough.