Slavery was a terrible stain on the past of many countries and particularly so on an American nation founded on the ideal of freedom. But like reparations for slavery, military intervention in Liberia to somehow atone for this monstrous chapter in our history foists costs on the current generation, which had nothing to do with the sins of past generations. In any intervention, those coststhat is, potential loss of life and limbwould fall on U.S. enlisted forces, which ironically have a higher percentage of African-Americans than the general population.
In addition, whether Liberia will actually be helped by U.S. intervention is questionable. The domestic political opposition to President Charles Taylor is also tainted by human rights violations and corruption. And the U.S. record in nation-building in the developing world is abysmal. Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq all were, are or are becoming disasters. Either the countries are no better off (and sometimes worse off ) than before U.S. involvement, or violence would likely resume when the United States tried to withdraw from the morass.
And when things dont go well, the U.S. stake in a countrys future leads to pressure to stay longer or commit more forces. Although the administration insists that U.S. forces will remain in Liberia only a short time, then-President Clintoneight years ago and countingpromised that U.S. troops would remain in Bosnia only a year. With two-thirds of U.S. army brigades already deployed around the world, a Liberian neocolonial adventurenot vital to U.S. securitywould further overstretch the U.S. military and might tie up forces that would be needed for a real security emergency.
Ivan Eland is Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, and he spent 15 years working for Congress on national security issues, including stints as an investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee and Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office. He is author of the books Partitioning for Peace: An Exit Strategy for Iraq, and Recarving Rushmore.
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