August 01, 2003

Save Us


This AP article gives some background on what Liberian militants having been doing to each other in a near perpetual 14 years of conflict. Excerpts:

Each side is accustomed to executing captured enemies. [Liberian President Charles] Taylor's side, in particular, is accused of often torturing them first. Routinely, combatants in Liberia hack off slain rivals' body parts as magic totems or simply to terrify. [...] Both sides use child fighters. Taylor pioneered the formal recruitment of Small Boys Units during the 1989-1996 civil war.

The Liberian-on-Liberian violence is not limited to militants. Fighting since June has killed more than 1,000 civilians, who are also being raped and looted. A Fox News story today indicates nine more civilians have been killed by shelling, including four children.

In much of the media coverage of Liberia (which is extensive), there is an underlying implication that America is morally obligated to intervene in this situation, not for America's interest, but for "humanitarian" reasons. This AP photo shows a mural of a Liberian shaking hands with Uncle Sam and saying, "We've come a long way, Big Brother. It's still rough! We are suffering." The caption indicates the consequence of America not immediately acting on this expected brotherly responsibility: "Many Liberians are becoming increasingly angry with the delay in sending peacekeepers to their war-torn West-African nation[...]."

But are we morally obligated? Should the lives of our troops be risked for such a mission? By what standard should troops be deployed?

The Ayn Rand Institute answers those questions and more in an op-ed by Peter Schwartz: Foreign Policy and Self-Interest. Excerpts:

Those who claim that the United States has a moral obligation to send troops on a "humanitarian" mission to Liberia have it exactly backward: our government has a moral obligation not to send its forces into areas that pose no threats to America's well-being. It is America's self-interest that should be the standard for all foreign-policy decisions -- and not just because such a standard is practical, but because it is moral. [...]

We desperately need some courageous official who is willing to state categorically that a moral foreign policy must uphold America's self-interest -- and that by shipping troops to Liberia, we are sacrificing our interests. We are telling our soldiers to risk their lives in a senseless attempt to prevent, temporarily, rival warlords from butchering one another.

Contrary to the assertions of all who have suddenly become eager for a new American military presence abroad, offering ourselves as sacrificial fodder on "humanitarian" missions is not a virtue, but a moral crime.

There is no doubt that the situation in Liberia is horrible. But America's limited military capabilities should stay focused on preventing the horror of another 9/11.

UPDATE Aug. 3: My local paper, The Tennessean, ran an article (headlined "Liberians look to their kindred Uncle Sam for aid") that emphasizes the family analogy and makes explicit the alleged moral obligation of America (here is an online version). Excerpts:

"America? I call it home. It's my sister home," said the silver-haired Porte, who left the United States [for Liberia] with her father when she was a year old.

Her sense of kinship, widespread in Liberia, helps explain Liberians' craving for American peacekeepers. Some Liberians go further, saying the United States has a moral obligation to restore order to their war-torn nation.

"They set up their own little America here," said Sister Barbara Brilliant, an American nun from Maine who's lived in Liberia for 26 years. "Liberia is waiting for its parent to come and say, 'I'll take care of you.'"[...]

"I think the Americans oughta help us," Porte said, "'cause we are all family."

Posted by Forkum at August 1, 2003 08:08 AM