Monday, July 28, 2003

Liberia Musings-I've been struggling to get my mind around what I should think about our pending intervention in Liberia. In this case Byron's 48 Hour Rule (if you wait 48 hours, someone in the Blogosphere will state your position better than you would have) rings true in the person of James Lileks
Look. I don’t have “political misgivings” about a Liberian intervention; I have practical misgivings about using American forces in TFNs, or Totally Farked Nations. I’m on the fence here. I’ve heard compelling arguments against intervention, and I've heard solid arguments about the uniqueness of an American presence in Liberia, considering their attitude towards its distant thrice-removed paternal figure.
I'm still on the fence as well, but my feet are on the intervention side, checking to see if what I'm going to set foot in. We might want to wait until the rebels finish attacking Buchanan; his last piece was too stinky to fisk, so I'll let them do it. Remember that we are going into a TFN; most of West Africa makes the Mad Max universe look civilized. This will be messy, with supporters of multiple camps not wanting to play nice. We will need to be the New Sheriff in Town willing to get out the industrial-sized can of whuppin' when needed. We will lose men. It will be ugly. We'll be accused of being an empire, a colonialist and insensitive to Africans. Liberia doesn't have a concrete strategic US interest. However, if you look at it from the neoconservative goal of spreading functioning free-market democracies around the world, this is a way to step into a chaotic situation and install such a government. It requires looking at American interest being the interest in making a better world. No, we can't be everywhere at once. Yes, there are bigger thugs than Charles Taylor. However, we're in a situation where our presence will save thousands of lives and improve the lives of millions. We're also in a situation where a modest amount of force will do a world of good. The problem with this one is whether Dubya is willing to spend the geopolitical and domestic political capital to get this done right. The geopolitics isn't that much of a problem; since the French and Germans don't have dogs in this fight, we'll get no opposition in the UN and likely some modest help from the EU. However, it remains to be seen whether the president is willing to have body bags show up at Dover's Air Force base coming from Liberia and have the paleoconservatives snipe at him for it. The political coalition for action is generally a center-left one (or at least a foreign policy neocon-liberal one) and would require Democrats to back him up. Will Democrats have the political courage to back the President on this one, or would they stand back and support the troops while being "concerned about the president's policies"? If not, the President will have to spend a lot of political capital to pull this one off. I think it's worth doing, but it won't be easy.

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