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US troops may go to Liberia

George W Bush has agreed to send up to 1,000 troops to Liberia. CNN reports that he took the decision after a meeting of his National Security Council. An announcement was expected, possibly today, that the US troops will head an international peacekeeping force.

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, had urged the UN Security Council to dispatch a force “to prevent a major humanitarian tragedy” in an upsurge in fighting between factions engaged in a 14-year conflict that has killed a tenth of Liberia’s population.

Apart from embassy protection detachments, the marines will be the first American soldiers deployed in Africa since the withdrawal from Somalia nearly a decade ago. Britain, France and some African countries had called on America to lead it because of its historical links with Liberia, founded in 1822 as a settlement for freed American slaves.

Comments by White House press secretary Ari Fleischer that Bush was considering sending troops provoked a nearly instantaneous reaction in Monrovia, where thousands of people gathered outside the U.S. Embassy to cheer a possible American presence. One man said:

We feel America can bring peace because they are the original founders of this nation, and secondly, they are the superpower of the world.

Strange, Liberians do not seem to have a problem with that…

37 comments to US troops may go to Liberia

  • S. Weasel

    Hm. Sounds like a thousand too many, and not nearly enough to me. But what do I know?

  • Gabriel

    Well, they are doing it the UN way…

  • T. Hartin

    I am baffled by the lack of outrage over the “illegality” of this deployment. I see no UN resolution requesting or authorizing the deployment, in contrast to the Iraq war. I see no resolution in Congress, in contrast to the Iraq war. In short, all the legalities that, even when they were in place for Iraq, were deemed by many to be insufficient to render that war legal, are utterly lacking in Liberia. What gives? Wouldn’t the same people who complain about the “illegality” of the Iraq war be opposed to this intervention as well?

    Can it possibly be that informal requests from foreigh heads of state and UN leaders are all the legal imprimatur that is required? Doesn’t sound like the rule of law to me.

  • Kelli

    I don’t fear so much for the safety of the troops as for the precedent this action will set (or follow, if you consider the decisions by the UK and France to revisit their colonial past as precedent). It is perfectly understandable that Liberians respond with joy–the Americans will come and save us. God knows, I would weep with joy. But we are not a knight on horseback in a fairytale and we cannot “fix” their problems for more than a few months. What happens when we say, right, our work here is done?

    I can live with this decision, but it was not one I would have made and I do not think it will bring peace.

  • That’s it, Bush it Hitler……Amerikkkkka is worse than Nazis….aaaaaaarrrgghhhhhhhhhh
    hhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh….It’s all about ooooiiiillllllllll…….aaaaargghhhhhhh……The Zionists are behind it…..aaaaaarrrrrrgghhhhhhhhh….

  • Chris Josephson

    Quagmire. Imperialists. Cowboys.

    It’s going to be said, figured I’d say it first.

    What natural resource does Liberia have that the US can be charged with wanting? Gold? Diamonds?

    Watch for the BBC expose on how the US paid to have those Liberians cheer.

    Seriously, I’m glad the US can help out. However, I’d rather see some other countries do what needs to be done and stay out of it.

  • Gabriel

    David, thank you for your reasoned contribution.

    With a bit more effort, your argument could have reached the hights of Mr Kodiak’s prolific outpourings… There are new horizons ahead. 🙂

  • George Peery

    Gabriel suggests Marines will be the major unit deployed, but the CNN report suggests it will be an Army unit. This will be a small point for some, but the US Army is already overwhelmed with commitments. See Michael O’Hanlon’s column today in the Washington Post.

  • T. Hardin asks, “Wouldn’t the same people who complain about the “illegality” of the Iraq war be opposed to this intervention as well?”

    Remember that many of those vocally opposed to the conquest of Iraq where leftists who objected because the UN wasn’t running things, but don’t actually care at all about US law. That leaves only libertarians such as myself to object to illegally sending troops to Liberia.

    Chris Josephson asks, “What natural resource does Liberia have that the US can be charged with wanting? Gold? Diamonds?”

    According to this rather vague report, both.

  • George Peery

    Ken writes, “That leaves only libertarians such as myself to object to illegally sending troops to Liberia.”


    I’m not sure, Ken, what your legal criteria are for a military intervention such as that being considered here. Perhaps you could elaborate.

  • Is it my imagination? Does the UN seem to be saying France & Britain – old Colonial-Imperialists – have sorted out their former colonies, Uncle Sam – Neo-Colonial-Imperialist – sort out your progeny.

    Is the UN now implicitly and pragmatically sanctioning “good” Imperialism…

    Kofi’s UN is becoming satirical.

  • George Peery

    Libera was never a colony of the US.

  • George Peery

    Wouldn’t it be splendid if the UN asked Belgium to go and un-screw the Congo? 🙂

  • Here I express my opposition to this little foray. Can anyone here tell us why its in the US strategic interest to get involved?

  • T. Hartin

    Just to be clear – I think the US war in Iraq was perfectly legal – it received the necessary approval by Congress. UN resolutions have no impact on legality as far as I can tell, although even if you think a UN resolution is necessary to legalize armed intervention, the US had that in hand as well.

    I’m not sure what the mission is in Liberia (and I doubt that anyone at the UN or the administration could give a coherent account of the US armed forces mission there), so I’m not sure what would be needed to legalize it. I doubt that we are at war with Liberia, so Congressional approval is likely not needed. This just raises the question of why we are sending armed forces to a country we are not at war with.

    Just what is supposed to be accomplished in Liberia by this intervention?

  • David Mercer

    There is no strategic US interest, but lately the US seems to have picked up the old mantle of Rome, to protect the weak and make humble the proud.

  • Neil Eden

    If there is one thing the likes of Kofi Annan and the writers of Samizdata can agree on, it is that the purpose of US military had long transcended anything involving defense. The purpose of America’s foreign policy is now to commit selfless acts of philanthropy. If the post-hoc explanation for sending troops to Iraq was to free the Iraqi from life under a tyrant (whether that tyrant was a threat to the US is no longer of any interest), then there is little reason not to send troops to Liberia. In the socialist society that Samizdata endorses, the US should pay any price, sacrifice any liberty, and suffer any military deaths simply because those living under the threat of tyranny or chaos are entitled to it. (This is much like our Democrats feel the poor are entitled to the money of the wealthy). Clearly our foreign policy no longer focuses itself on such selfish, petty concerns such as self-defense.

  • George Peery asks, “I’m not sure, Ken, what your legal criteria are for a military intervention such as that being considered here. Perhaps you could elaborate.”

    The legal criteria for “military interventions” by the US are described here. I refer you in particular to Article II, Section 2, which describes the powers of the President.

  • George Peery

    Well Ken Hagler, I really don’t think the US is planning to go to war with Liberia. So no formal declaration is necessary — just some good, old-fashioned gunboat diplomacy.

    But honestly, Ken, aren’t you being at bit rigorous about applying the War Clause to overseas military commitments? America, after all, hasn’t formally “declared war” in over 60 years.

  • Kelli

    I don’t give a crap about legality (as defined by whom?) regarding this intervention. We’re American, remember? We make that stuff up as we go along.

    There are essentially two questions here:

    1) who is responsible for Liberia? Americans, a very few of whom emigrated to Liberia a century and half ago (and whose descendents make up a small minority today)? let’s be frank, most of the former slaves who went there were ALREADY horrified by the contrast between themselves and the native Africans in whose midst they settled. They were shocked by the savagery of the local population and despaired of “civilizing” them; many returned to the States. That’s how bad it was. And it appears not to have improved much in the intervening century and a half.

    2) So if Americans did not cause Liberia’s problems, and are not in any way responsible for saving the country, the question becomes should we intervene anyway and what good could we do with minimal expense and loss of life on our part? Does that sound callous? So be it. If it is not our mess and there are messes all over the place then it should be determined on a cost benefit analysis like any other serious decision.

    What would it cost (in money and blood) to get a decent outcome (stop the bloodshed and prevent its recurrence)? This is the only question worth asking. I’m open to ideas (as, I’m sure, is W.).

  • George Peery

    I’m not sympathetic to those who say the US shouldn’t ever do this or that unless it’s consistent with some narrow reading of “national interest.” I believe America should sometimes do the moral thing, internationally — even though we will benefit not a whit. (My perspective is that of a retired US Army colonel.)

    But for now the US military is stretched far too thin. Gen. Rick Shinseki, recently retired Army Chief of Staff, said to “beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division army”. But as the military analysist Frederick Kagan points out in this week’s Weekly Standard (link not avail), “even [Shinseki] understates the problem”.

    If we don’t “do Liberia,” it’s not because that wouldn’t be a good thing to do. It’s because the US has run out of soldiers.

  • Kodiak

    T. Hartin,

    Excuse my reformulating:

    “Just to be clear – I think the US war in Iraq was perfectly illegal – it received the unnecessary approval by Congress. UN resolutions alone have impact on legality as far as I can tell”


  • S. Weasel

    Kodiak: clumsy, clumsy. Being merely provocative is the crudest form of trolling.

    You were doing better yesterday.

  • George Peery

    Kodiak, you haven’t “reformulated”; you’ve changed white to black.

    Up to your old tricks, eh, Kodi?

  • I think Mr.Eden is dead wrong. I think the attack on Iraq was nothing except an exercise in cold, hard US national interest. As worthy as it may be to liberate Iraq from Saddam Hussein I do not believe that was the point of the exercise nor do I think that the USG should succumb to the temptation to go yomping quixotically around the planet righting every wrong. Down that road lies nemesis.

  • George Peery

    David, attacking Iraq was obviously in the US national interest, but it seems a bit over-the-top to claim it was “an exercise in cold, hard US national interest.” If that were all that was involved, US ballistic submarines would turn N. Korea to toast before breakfeat tomorrow.

    America is (believe it or not) quite willing to act for the international good, even when something less than the “exercise in cold, hard US national interest” is involved. Haiti and Kosovo come to mind.

  • George,

    I agree that ‘selfish’ national interest is not a systemic or even a common feature of US foreign policy. Many times the USG has been moved to do the right thing. But the invasion of Iraq was about ‘selfish’ US national interest, in my opinion.

  • Pete

    Can’t the Goddamned planet do anything without us. Can’t the Axis-of-Weasels rustle up a short Brigade to take care of this?

  • S. Weasel

    George: I consider Kosovo and Haiti places we really shouldn’t have been, precisely because we didn’t have a compelling self-interest. International relations are gray and messy enough – once you divorce military action from real domestic objectives, the ordinary calculations, timelines and restraints no longer apply.

    If America buys the self-image of international busybody, I think we stand a real chance of actually becoming the monster that many think we are now.

  • veryretired

    This is a purely political decision for purely political ends. Sending troops to Liberia innoculates the US from the continuing charges that we only react for oil and don’t care about the ongoing slaughter of the innocents in Africa. The media and humanitarian organizations were applying enormous pressure and this is the result. The obvious places from which to draw troops are Korea and anywhere in Europe, especially from the Bosnian fiasco.

  • George Peery

    As it happens, Weasel, I agree with you about Haiti and Kosovo, as specific cases. But if you’re suggesting the US should never act militarily for reasons primarily humanitarian, I would disagree as a matter of principle. There could be such cases and, should they arise, I would hope my country (and yours?) would be selfless and magnanimous enough to do the right thing, so to speak — assuming, of course, we had the capacity to bring it off successfully.

  • I endorse the comments of ‘veryretired’. For its own sake, the US should move to greatly reduce or even terminate its military commitments in Europe. US forces did a great job in the Balkans but I do not see why they are under any obligation to baby-sit the place.

    The Euros are forever whining about their alleged need to throw their weight around in the world so let them take over. They will probably phuk it all up but that is not America’s problem.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    My gut instinct, as well as intellectual view, is stay out of Liberia, and other such places, unless a clear strategic interest is involved. We acted in Iraq to deal with a man with a proven track record of using and seeking to acquire deadly weapons and who had been in violation of just about every rule of international law. So we took him down.

    However, some interventionists seem to be taking the view – and not just the “cabal of neocons” – that the US should be acting as the world’s dial-up emergency service. As the libertarian blogger Jim Henley put it, this is a bit like treating the US as the world’s designated driver. The driver has to stay sober so that everyone else can get sozzled. Such a stance creates a kind of international moral hazard problem.

    When is the rest of the world going to grow up and understand that the US and other leading nations cannot be expected to be the emergency service for the world?

  • T. Hartin

    What are we supposed to accomplish in Liberia? Somebody? Anybody? I honestly don’t have a clue. Is this purely a PR exercise – go in, push the natives around a bit, then come home when there is a lull in the fighting?

  • Della

    The Americans should go to Liberia, there’s such lovely people there, they’ll love it! They may want to phone ahead though:

    “Liberia: Joshua Blahyi – formerly known as General Butt Naked and leader of the Butt Naked Battalion in Liberia’s recent civil war – says that he now regrets the drunken murderous rampages he led his troops on, and says that he was a ‘slave to Satan.’ Speaking to the press from his new Soul-Winning Evangelical Ministry in Monrovia, General Butt Naked told reporters that at the age of 11 he had a telephone call from the Devil who demanded nudity on the battlefield, acts of indecency and regular human sacrifices to ensure his protection. ‘So, before leading my troops into battle, we would get drunk and drugged up, sacrifice a local teenager, drink their blood, then strip down to our shoes and go into battle wearing colourful wigs and carrying dainty purses we’d looted from civilians. We’d slaughter anyone we saw, chop their heads off and use them as soccer balls. We were nude, fearless, drunk and homicidal. We killed hundreds of people—so many I lost count. But in June last year God telephoned me and told me that I was not the hero I considered myself to be, so I stopped and became a preacher.’”

  • Kodiak

    Neil wrote:

    “The purpose of America’s foreign policy is now to commit selfless acts of philanthropy. If the post-hoc explanation for sending troops to Iraq was to free the Iraqi from life under a tyrant ”

    Are you journalist for the Pravda or do you write tragicomical plays?


  • Kodiak

    Dear disappointing Kelli,

    “I don’t give a crap about legality (as defined by whom?) regarding this intervention. We’re American, remember? We make that stuff up as we go along.”

    The best amenity brought about by this terse confession is candour.