Lack of U.S. intervention in Liberia has devastating results

The attention paid to the plight of the suffering masses of Liberia has been quite encouraging, considering the usual lack of attention concerning African issues.

President George W. Bush’s visit to Africa – where he made a commitment to help West African countries bring peace to war-ravaged Liberia – has also played a part in increasing awareness. But with fighting again raging in Liberia’s capital, the administration has been indecisive about how and when to provide that assistance.

The inaction on the part of the United States, the United Nations and Liberia’s West African neighbors needlessly condemns thousands of Liberian civilians to death. In the past week, hundreds have already died.

The United States has not sent a peace mission to Africa since its 1993 nightmare in Somalia. The might of the American military is, however, widely respected in Liberia, making it less likely that anyone would mete out such treatment to any captured Americans.

Despite the dangers, efforts to resolve conflicts in other parts of the world have shown some results. However, what has become obvious as events have unfolded, is that none of the growing pressure on Bush to send troops is coming from the American public. The argument for a more involved United States from the United Nations and other countries should certainly be taken into account by U.S. policy-makers.

However, absent a few extraordinary situations – and Liberia may turn out to be one – no such involvements should be undertaken unless demanded by the American people.

The United States and the rest of the world have a role to play in Liberia, but it is time the Africans solve their own problems.

Reliance on former colonial powers only seeks to affirm continual neocolonial intervention and domination in Africa. It points to the failure of Africans to resolve their own problems and heightens the chances that any major power will intervene wherever it considers another country a rogue or failed state.

African countries should take the initiative, under the auspices of the United Nations, to bring an end to the Liberian crisis. Instead of looking to the United States for forces, their primary request should be funds, logistical help and a background role for the United States in an impartial U.N.-led coalition in conjunction with other African states.

The resolution of the recent coup crisis in Sao Tome and Principe by Nigeria, along with other African countries, and the return to power of the democratically elected government of Sao Tome and Principe – under the threat of a military attack on the coup plotters – sets a good precedent. Liberia presents another opportunity to stand up to the task.

I only hope this time the political leaders put aside their hatred for Charles Taylor, think about the innocent Liberians and stand up to the challenge.