Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Here's an article from CNN on the situation in Liberia and a possible US intervention. First, my position on going into somewhere and overthrowing dictators or warlords is the same as Tony Blair's: "I wish I could overthrow them all. I will help to overthrow all that I can. I can't get rid of the Burmese military, as much as I would like to, for example." He said something like this; it's not a direct quote.

We can't go into the Congo, at least not now. We can't get enough supplies and security in there to make sure all our guys don't get killed and eaten like one of those tribes was doing to the Pygmies. It requires an enormous amount of preparation to move the United States Army, and the Army needs a safe home base; remember, it's estimated that they need eight to ten rear-echelon guys to support one fighting man. That means if you've got 10,000 combat soldiers on the ground, you need a safe home base to keep, we'll say, 75,000 support soldiers. Well, as far as I know, we've got only ten active Army divisions, plus several brigades of Marines, and some of them need to be in Korea and others in Europe and others in the Middle East and others at home. We don't have a lot of spare military capacity, and we just can't get to central Africa. The United States is not omnipotent.

We made it into Somalia with no problems, though, since Somalia's on the coast and easily supplied, and we weren't too worried at that time about anything. We had this military power sitting around doing nothing, and it's always a temptation to try out your new toys. Somalia looked perfect, we'd go in and restore order and feed the people and we'd be the big heroes. Too bad it ain't that simple.

So here's the deal with Liberia, in my mind: 1) We owe them something, we have some responsibility, since we set up the country in the first place as a colony for "repatriated" slaves 2) It's on the coast so we could get there fairly easily 3) We don't have a lot of excess military capacity, so we're going to need allies 4) What do you know, the Brits are in Sierra Leone, north of Liberia, and the French are in the Ivory Coast, south of Liberia. Maybe we need to all get together and see what we can do to pacify the region in general. We'll give the French a chance to get out of the doghouse and prove they have something useful to contribute instead of just whingeing 5) We only send in our guys if we're prepared to fight and take losses. If we're not willing to do that, we do not go in. I'd be prepared to fight on this one, since what's happening in West Africa has been just horrendous over the last 25 years. But I'm not the American people as a whole 6) Are we too busy right now in the Middle East to take on such a serious responsibility as Liberia? That's a question only the President can answer. I'll bet we're not, but I'm not an expert on American military capabilities.

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