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August 11, 2003

Post-Taylor Liberia: Any Real Difference?

Will a post-Taylor Liberia really be any different than it was before he resigned?

While we all watch the spectacle of him stepping down (and blaming the US and UK for not supporting him properly), our eyes have been diverted from the real goal: a peaceful government that accurately represents the people. Taylor stepping down is simply a piece of that larger goal.

Unfortunately, Taylor has hand-picked his own successor, and that choice leaves a grave doubt that the regime change will truly bring about peace in the country. Already, the Liberian rebels have stated that they will not accept the new leader, Moses Blah.

The questions that remain are these:

  1. While Blah's presidency is supposed to be a transitionary position, will Blah actually accept the transition? Blah is one of Liberia's military leaders who trained in Libya in the '80's, and was one of the first in battle of the Liberian rebels who toppled the government of Samuel Doe. He very strongly fits the mold of the typical African military leader who grabs control of his country's government and won't let go until a coup unseats him.
  2. Even assuming that Blah and Taylor are being straight-forward in this transition, will the rebels hold fire while waiting for the transition government to give up power? More likely, the rebels will soon resume fighting, and the token peace keeping force now present in the country will be of minimal use. Their skepticism is fueled by a strong distrust of both Taylor and the military.

The Christian Science Monitory is already questioning the government transition, noting that the resignation of Taylor was handled in a way contrary to the nation's constitution.

But this facade of legitimacy may be rapidly crumbling. On Thursday, Taylor called a joint session of the Liberian Congress to name his successor. Only 33 of the 90 representatives attended. They sat clustered in one corner of the country's House of Representatives while looters carried out sofas and air conditioners from nearby offices.

This does little to bolster the idea that the transition will be carried out as promised. In fact, CSM also wonders if Taylor intends to leave the country or if he intends to simply stay and rule through a puppet president.

The question remains, then, what should the US do to help the process along to an acceptable conclusion? Or, as some have suggested, is this beyond the realm of what we should be involved in?

My thought is that in order to prevent Liberia from becoming another haven for international terrorist, and in order to support stable constitutional democracies in the region, the US most certainly should be involved.

A peacekeeping force in Liberia would not need to be particularly large, but the commitment would need to be long term. This is not a situation where you talk about exit strategies, but understand that the only acceptable exit is when the democracy has been restored and the new government is on its feet.

Do we have an obligation in Liberia? I'm going to jovially dodge that question while simply noting that we have an obligation to our own interests. In Liberia, it's my belief that an ounce of prevention now will keep us from the proverbial pound of cure. Make no mistake: the US absolutely needs stable African countries. Otherwise, Africa will become the Middle East of our future--a breeding ground for terrorists that strike out at American interests around the globe in an attempt to bully us into giving in to their causes.

Any comparison to Somalia, though, is overblown. There is a path to a stable government, there is no existing power vacuum, and there is wide support in the country for US and UN intervention. We have it in our power to do something good and to, hopefully, help prevent Liberia's descent into a lawlessness that leaves the country as another Somalia. Or, worse, another Afghanistan.Read the Christian Science Monitor article.

Read about Moses Blah.

Posted by zombyboy at August 11, 2003 05:51 PM
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