Tear Down This Statue!

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*
New at Reason: Jesse Walker looks at the intervention in Liberia as War On Terror mission creep.

* This picture, from a golden age Liberian postage stamp, is not actually a statue of Charles Taylor, but I think the Marines should pull it down anyway.

NEXT: Royer Watch

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  1. I fail to see how Iraq is a precedent for this mission. This appears to be on the Haiti/Somalia model.

  2. who is the statue in the stamp?

  3. Iraq is not a precedent for this mission. The post-hoc excuses for it, however, make the logic of intervention unavoidable. Which, yes, are pretty much the same as those for Haiti and Somalia.

    BTW, 500,000 human being didn’t starve to death because American troops guarded UN food convoys in Somalia. Shouldn’t that count for something?

  4. it is fun to see those who think in abstractions try to apply one gradiose theory to everything.

    those in the real world judge each war on its own merits.

  5. Viking, the French and British have sent troops to West Africa already, to stop the killing begun by Taylor-supported rebels/gangsters. Whatever else this might be, unilateral it’s not.

  6. 500,000 people? Where on Earth did you get that figure, Joe? If you include all the private agencies that were sending food aid to Somalia, 80% of the shipments were getting through before any troops arrived to guard them.

    The Somalia intervention was a humanitarian disaster as well as a military one. I recommend the work Human Rights Watch did on the issue.

  7. how many were dropped into plastic shredders and acid?

  8. joe –
    that is indeed correct, and i was thinking that this should be a european operation. despite the history of liberia, africa is in the european sphere of influence, and it would be high time for european solutions. this does not seem to be an opportune time for the American army to get involved, since it is so stretched out now.
    good catch.
    ps., are those acid and shredder stories true? or are they the incubator stories from the first war?
    E “HV” A

  9. stop by a DVD shop in baghdad and buy a copy for yourself.

  10. Wow! GRAPHICS! On Hit & Run!

    (I’m obviously a newbie.)

    Thanks, Cavanaugh! We ought to do more of such. Could be fun. Please, tell Matt Welch, so he can emblazon Sabine Herold’s (PG-rated) eye candy in a similarly prominent fashion.

  11. “… but I think the Marines should pull it down anyway.”

    They will probably fake it.

  12. let’s not forget about Ted Rall’s oil pipeline in Afganistan, which is why we seemed to attack and cause the starvation of 5 million afgan babies.

    the question I have is how the Neocons keep this pipeline invisable? Bush is one bad, bad, bad man.

  13. Tim,
    🙂
    E “HV” A

  14. 500,000 was one of those “seem to recall” numbers. My bad. Anyway, what if it was 100,000? 300,000? 50,000? American casualties, even after mission creep, were about two dozen.

    “80% of the shipments were getting through before any troops arrived to guard them.” Warlords were selectively attacking aid convoys in order to induce starvation among civilian populations. We had the chance to get food to people who were going to starve to death within weeks without it. Do you question the ability of the military to get the trucks through, or are you arguing that doing so is somehow worse than the widespread deaths of innocents?

    I’m a lazy ass. Got a link on the Human Rights Watch work you reference?

  15. These foreign policy critiques would resonate and persuade a little more if they came from writers that ever thought intervention was justfied anywhere, for any reason. If not, then they’re just rigid, doctrinaire isolationism, with whatever arguments are handy grasped at to make intervention in (fill in the blank) seem sinister or misguided or both.

    This one was a bit tough to slap the straitjacket on it seems. Its all about oil, oh wait, Israel? no?, hmmmm . . . give me some time. Okay, I’ll guess we’ll just have to fall back to the old “We can’t take on all the dictators everywhere so therefore we should never confront any dictator anywhere, no matter what, because it will make all the people who hate us cross, and because it’ll stretch us too thin.” So there.

    But if Jesse really feels the military is so overburdened, by all means lets increase military spending even more. I’m with you brother.

    I’m also noticing that its easy to be an isolationist because you force the other side to prove a negative: If we intervene (fill in the blank doomsday scenario) won’t happen. The isolationist side never has to figure out the consequences of not intervening, or answer for them.

    And, the isolationist predictions about Gulf War II (Stalingrad-like urban combat, chemical weapons attacks, more terrorist attacks at home) didn’t exactly pan out, which autmoatically gives any of these sort of knee-jerk isolationist arguments less credibility.

  16. I feel this can easily distill the question about the “world policeman”

    If you feel America should be a world policeman, you can support honestly support intervention in Liberia. If you do not, you can’t.

  17. Tim:

    Sure enough, I’ve already been informed that the US gets a lot of oil from West Africa. Further investigation, alas, revealed that virtually none of this black gold comes from Liberia. I suppose you could make a case that destabilization in the one country threatens oil production in the others, but we seem to have been driving our cars uninterrupted in the face of a Liberian civil war for several years now.

    As for Somalia, there actually was an oil connection there, but it was a minor factor at best. (There was a good article on NetNomad debunking the oil conspiracy theories that attached themselves to Operation Just Cause, but I can’t find it now.)

    Meanwhile, I’m still trying to figure out what Anon. meant when he mentioned watching “those who think in abstractions try to apply one grandiose theory to everything.” I didn’t do that in my piece, Tim didn’t do it in his post, and no one’s done it in the comments here. Maybe it happened in a dream?

  18. “If you feel America should be a world policeman, you can support honestly support intervention in Liberia. If you do not, you can’t. ”

    why bother to use your brain at all?

    “all we need is platitudes” sing along!

  19. Not all fires have to be extinguished by Man. Forest fires have been raging for millions of years — when Man wasn’t even around.

    (Sometimes it is best to let conflagrations simply fizzle by themselves.)

  20. “all we need is platitudes!”

    I assume you support an intervention. What is America’s interest? How do you explain the purpose to the soldiers/marines going, nevermind to the inevitable greiving parents/spouses/ children?

  21. Yeah, but man gave names to all the animals.

    (this site is about the worst song lyrics of all time, isn’t it? or is it bumper stickers?)

  22. Dear Mr/Ms. Anon July 7, 2003 05:21 PM: I am not sure where I stand but I understand it is a complicated issue that can’t be boiled into a one sentence solution.

    Have a groovy day,

    Mr. Anon July 7, 2003 05:14 PM

  23. Joe: It’s been a decade since I read those Human Rights Watch reports, interviewed their investigator Alex de Waal, and inhaled other critiques of US policy in Somalia. I wrote a few articles on the topic, the most all-encompassing of which (edited, alas, by a man whose first language was not English) appeared in the Spring 1995 issue of Telos. The upshot is that if any of this is online, I don’t have the URLs — this was in the days before Web-based research.

    Eric: If you really oppose cookie-cutter rhetoric, you should take a hard look at what you’ve just written. I did not say, to quote a line you presumably cut-and-pasted from the Iraq debates a few months ago, that “we can’t take on all the dictators everywhere so therefore we should never confront any dictator anywhere.” In fact — and I alluded to this in the piece — the dictator in question promised yesterday to leave power. He gave no timetable and could certainly renege on his pledge; still, it seems rather foolish, given what he said, to hinge the discussion of this issue on whether we can “take on” a dictator. The central question is whether the US should send in soldiers to keep the peace after Taylor exits — sort of an Iraqi occupation without an Iraqi war to get everyone all excited & optimistic first.

  24. Jesse,

    You’re right. I looked over my post and it was kind of lazy and conflated the Iraq war argument with this one. Sorry about that, seriously.

    You may be right and my mind certainly isn’t made up on this one. There are plenty of good arguments to be made against an intervention in Liberia. What I meant to say is that the arguments are diluted by the fact that you and others at this site seem to be against intervention anywhere period, though I could be wrong about that. Its like when a pothead argues marijuana laws, or a NAMBLA member age of consent laws, or a heavy smoker rails on about Bloomberg. They may be right, but its all so predictable and you can’t help but feeling that they’re not exactly objective.

  25. We’ve all got biases, Eric. My hope is that I can say something interesting about an issue even when my stance is preordained.

  26. This site is about the best song lyrics of all time, isn’t it?

    So it goes, like it goes, like the river flows.
    And time just rolls right on.
    And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better.
    And maybe what’s bad gets gone.

    (Bumper sticker)

  27. SAD NEWS …

    Today, yet another American boy lost his life … Shot to death by an Iraqi sniper.

  28. Of course, the critical difference that Chomsky misses between the US and other empires is that everyone speaks English, drinks Coke, and trades with the US because they want to, not because we will start shooting them if they don’t. To a totalitarian sympathizer like Chomsky, of course, the difference between consensual and non-consensual is pretty inconsequential, so it should be no surprise that he missed it.

  29. Well, it seems that Saddam’s plan to create post-war chaos is going according to schedule. 🙂

  30. Look grandpa, people are still citing Chomsky.
    I guess you can dust off that John Birch pin.

  31. what?
    a. chomksy, who is actually a bakuninist and was never involved in any commie-loving activites (and actually correctly cites the USSR as a greater imperialist power than the US) cannot accurately be painted as a totalitrian sympathizer.
    b. the main thing he points out are the military aspects
    were the vietnamese (iraqis/kosovars/haitians/liberians) voluntantarily subjected to the violation of their national sovereignty? clearly, in the cases of somalia, vietnam, iraq, nicaragua, greece, iran,lebanon etc etc there have been a least a significant minority who do not. and others notice that the US care not one whit for national sovereignty, which, unless you believe they just hate jesus and so should have no attention paid them, explains at least partially why they ar afraid and sad about our foriegn policy. how is an iranian, for insance, to be assured that the US won’t intervene in a bad way? they have done so more than once in the last 50 years. they have named the iranin government in a shortlist of three, one of which has been deposd and one of which would’ve been but for some nukes they happen to have. clearly, this influences nuclear proliferation in a bad way- and more, that it creates animosity and is fundamentally immoral, and is in fact the state manifesting s evilly in foriegn areas as it does domestically.
    incidentally, chomsky didn’t make this theory, i did. while reading an essay he wrote about the US involvement in the vietnam war, one which the vietnamese were scarcely clamoring for. your wish to impugn mr. chmoksys motives are misplaced, he was never a pinko and is an ally of any libertarian in noticing that government is a abd idea.

    i sympathize, to an extent, with your feelings. howevr, as chomsky noted, “while the US citizens ma feel its imperialist missions are justified becausethey are “idealistic” that was true of thevictorian, french and soviet empries as well, and scarcely justifies the fact that idealism is not compatible with violentcoercion.

  32. Chomsky didn’t actively defend the Khmer Rouge, but it appears he has done his best to minimize their actions. “If a serious study…is someday undertaken, it may well be discovered…that the Khmer Rouge programs elicited a positive response…because they dealt with fundamental problems rooted in the feudal past and exacerbated by the imperial system… Such a study, however, has yet to be undertaken.” (from After the Cataclysm, 1979).

    Here’s two webpages that have some info on Chomsky and the Khmer Rouge.

  33. I call Chomsky a totalitarian sympathizer in part because of his attitude toward the Khmer Rouge and in part because he will support nearly anyone, however odious, who opposes the USA.

  34. As someone who grew up in Monrovia (California, that is), I think we should go in. I don’t like my town’s name dragged down.

  35. this whole war for oil theory(“Sure enough, I’ve already been informed that the US gets a lot of oil from West Africa. Further investigation, alas, revealed that virtually none of this black gold comes from Liberia. I suppose you could make a case that destabilization in the one country threatens oil production in the others, but we seem to have been driving our cars uninterrupted in the face of a Liberian civil war for several years now.

    As for Somalia, there actually was an oil connection there, but it was a minor factor at best. (There was a good article on NetNomad debunking the oil conspiracy theories that attached themselves to Operation Just Cause, but I can’t find it now.)
    “) where every single war is about natural resources is B.S. there are few countries on earth that have nothing whatsoever of value. i dare you to name ne single country wit no important indsustry, natural resource, or national security relevance to tbhe US, and i bet you can’t.

    i read an essay about vietnam by noam chomsky the other day where he suggests that in the time of vietnam, the entire world is a republic (government, not political party) empire: dissent is OK, differet currency, etc, is OK, but national sovereignty is meaningless when one of the great powers opposes it (hungary or czechoslovakia or vietnam were the examples he gave) and there are US nd soviet troops stationed in tons of countries, like, say, germany and south korea (then and now) and everyone speaks english because of america and drinkscoca cola because of america and eats hamburgers because of america.
    i think this applies here, too: what does national sovereignty mean when the US randomly topples governments it doesn’t like (liberia, iraq, haiti, the list goes on.) its true that those countries have some salient bad features but then again so does the U.S. and the definition of good country not invade is : capitalist democracy, a la the US. and how are, say, japan or germany not american colonies? they export more goods to us than anywhere else (like colonies do) our troops are stationed there, most of the natives speak our language, their governments generally do whatever we want them to do, etc etc etc

  36. sorry i know that was really long

  37. the US is an empire that shares no features with any past empire, but empire is a perfect word

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