- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 20, 2003

While Jack Spencer makes a strong case (“Not the way to help Liberia,” Commentary, Friday) as to why the United States should generally avoid committing troops to participate in feel-good, peacekeeping missions, he fails to acknowledge the unique historical and cultural bond between the United States and Liberia, and is wrong to urge President Bush not to dispatch a military force to the West African nation to restore order. He is also off base in stating that an American force is not needed.

Immersed in a 14-year civil war, Liberia is at a critical juncture in its 150-plus year history. President Charles Taylor, Liberia’s corrupt and despotic leader, is rapidly losing control of the country to rebel groups, and his downfall appears inevitable. Sadly, the leaders of the rebel groups battling to oust Mr. Taylor are equally as immoral and do not seem committed to improving the abominable living conditions under which the country’s 3.3 million citizens have long been suffering. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, other world leaders and Liberians themselves have all asked the United States to send a peacekeeping force.

The European nations that Mr. Spencer believes should intervene lack the extraordinary connection that the United States and Liberia share, and thus do not have the moral standing or authority that the United States has in the eyes of Liberians. After all, Liberia was founded in the early 19th century as a home for freed U.S. slaves. Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, is named in honor of one of those who fought for its establishment, President James Monroe, and its government is modeled on the U.S. Constitution. Its flag, which is strikingly similar to the U.S. flag, signifies, in part, the relationship between the two countries. A good analogy of the bond between Liberia and the United States is the one we share with Britain.

Liberia has always sought to emulate the United States, and Liberians — unlike the clans that U.S. soldiers encountered in Somalia in the early 1990s — would greet U.S. forces as heroes. Another difference between Somalia and the other places in which the United States has recently intervened is Liberia’s longstanding commitment to democracy. A nominal U.S. peacekeeping force — supplemented by a larger number of troops from Liberia’s neighboring countries — would maintain a cease-fire and permit Liberians to once again establish a democratic government and prevent the emergence and potential pitfalls of another failed state.



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