- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 19, 2003

The news that Interim President Gyude Bryant took power in Liberia this week is a positive step for the country, just as the ouster of ex-strongman Charles Taylor and his vice president were. The West Africans, led by Nigeria under the regional body ECOWAS, have liberated Liberia with only light U.S. assistance.

Africa’s success in Liberia helps break an excessive dependency on the West, fostered by well-intentioned but misguided policies. It also sends a signal to war-mongering despots: you could be held to account by your own neighbors. African countries have an interest in maintaining stability and will be more willing to send troops when Western countries are not. In Liberia, they have demonstrated their ability to do so.

The developments in Liberia are “a dream come true for not only Liberia but the entire ECOWAS bloc and Africa in general,” said Ghana’s Accra Mail.

The Liberian initiative also demonstrates that the United States need not be the world’s policeman of first resort. Still, Washington has played and should continue to play an important role in helping the people of the region help themselves. The United States had trained West African troops for several years before the Liberian deployment. Although the U.S. airlift of African troops proved unnecessary, American troops stood by to help and oversaw some logistics. The limited U.S. mission in Liberia was also not without peril. The roughly 40 U.S. soldiers aiding the transition of West Africans into their peacekeeping role in Liberia’s countryside were particularly at risk. And the U.S. troops aboard three amphibious assault ships just offshore sent a succinct message to Mr. Taylor and rebels.

The aid agency Merlin has restarted its work in Liberia, setting up facilities in the rebel-held southeast. But the humanitarian situation remains dire, with severe shortages of food and medicine. Merlin workers have found their health facilities looted and medical staff displaced. Given the improved but still precarious situation in Liberia, the United States was wise to call on the United Nations to send as many as 15,000 peacekeepers and 900 police officers to Liberia. The international community must now help Liberia rebuild.

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