July 08, 2003

Liberia Folly

Ted Galen Carpenter explains why a possible U.S. intervention in Liberia does not make any sense:

There is not even a peripheral, much less a vital, U.S. interest at stake in Liberia. It might be possible to find a country that is less relevant than Liberia to America's security and well-being, but it would take a major effort.

Writer Irving Kristol had it right more than a decade ago during a previous civil war in Liberia when he observed that the only issue at stake seemed to be a mundane fight between then-dictator Samuel K. Doe and would-be dictator Charles Taylor. Today, the mundane struggle is between Taylor and rebels who would likely replace his odious regime with an equally odious one. America does not have a dog in that fight.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and other lobbyists for a U.S.-led peacekeeping mission argue that intervention is justified because considerable suffering is taking place in the Liberian civil war. That is undoubtedly tragic for the people of Liberia. But the existence of suffering in another country is not sufficient reason for the United States to commit its military personnel.

There is suffering taking place in numerous places around the world. Indeed, the scale of human misery is far greater in such places as the Congo, Cuba, Myanmar, North Korea, and Sudan than it is in Liberia. From a moral standpoint, how can the Bush administration justify intervening in Liberia while declining to use force in those other cases? Yet if the United States intends to intervene everywhere bad things happen, our military will be busy in perpetuity. Humanitarian intervention is, therefore, an impractical, bankrupt policy.