2004 08 05
Charles Taylor, Al Qaeda and the CIA

So, uh, what the hell is this about?

Not the first time I’ve heard of this odd connection, but I’ve never been able to figure out what was going on. I hope someone does figure it out.

A single voice crying in the wilderness (1)

2003 08 11
Looks like I was wrong

Well, it look as if Charles Taylor is really leaving. I hadn’t believed he would actually go.

On the other hand, Taylor handpicked a successor (who is not considered a plausible compromise by the rebels) and is cagey on where exactly he’ll go (the rebels insist, reasonably enough that he must leave the country). If he doesn’t actually leave the country, I’ll retract this admission of error, since he will probably be controlling things from the sidelines.

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2003 07 24
Liberia, again

Things have gotten steadily worse, worse in Liberia, just when you might have concluded that they had nowhere to go but up.

Bush is taking heat for this. This is surprising, to say the least. A few weeks ago, no one was paying any attention to the conflict at all – now it’s in the New York Times almost every day.

I think that questions about intervention and moral responsibility are complicated. Some cases of intervention may be permissible without being obligatory, and if that’s the case, a country isn’t necessarily being hypocritical when it intervenes in one case but not another.

So does this get the U.S. off the hook? Well, I remain undecided about whether the U.S. specifically has a moral responsibility to intervene. Surely if it does, it’s not alone. Europe has the means to intervene as well. And so, apparently, do other African countries – though this may lead to more unhappiness in the long run.

Suppose we decide that the U.S. has no moral responsibility to intervene. Matters are further complicated by the fact that it hinted it would intervene. The hint seems to have been prompted by a desire to look good while touring Africa. It’s inconceivable to me that the hint was sincere: I just can’t imagine the admin giving a shit about Liberians. Or if it was sincere, it was sincere in the very minimal sense that they thought it might be feasible to send a few military trainers or a very small support force.

The hint has played an important role in the way events are now unfolding on the ground. Actors on the ground, to be sure, bear primary moral responsibility for the chaos and death currently being unleashed. But by dropping the hint, the U.S. injected itself into events, because an actor itself in this drama.

If they had no intention of going in the first place, they shouldn’t have dropped the hint.

The admin has gotten itself into a real pickle. Now everyone is watching to see what the U.S. will do. And they’ve started to perk up to the horrors on the ground that made intervention seem desirable. I’m not sure where the story will go, but for Liberians, I doubt it will go well.

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2003 07 04
More on Liberia

Amazing that reporters can still pass on news of Taylor’s resignation offers with a straight face. This piece on the CBC’s website suggests that Taylor is willing – again – to step down.

I think I see Taylor’s strategy. He’s making his resignation conditional on a U.S. peacekeeping force. Why a U.S. force? Why not some other well-meaning country? Because, I suspect, Taylor suspects that the U.S. won’t bite. The U.S. has hinted that it will go in, but only if Taylor resigns. I think Taylor is calling their bluff.

At least I’m assuming it’s a bluff. I find it very, very hard to imagine the U.S. sending in troops – unless it’s a very small group devoted to military training of their officer corps.

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2003 07 02
More on Liberia

The NYTimes has a piece today on the Bush admin’s deliberations on Liberia. The piece suggests that there is a real chance that the U.S. will actually get involved. This seems quite unlikely. (In another development, the U.N. Security Council team sent to stall – oops! – investigate the matter has recently returned home. This will raise the pressure on the Security Council to look decisive – oops! – to act.) The piece provides a rather good case against any U.S. intervention, though:

Yet former administration officials said there was reluctance at the Pentagon to get involved in a complex and violent dispute that does not involve a compelling issue of national security for the United States, especially when American troops are already deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I have a hunch that the Pentagon isn’t alone on this.

The piece also suggests that the U.S. might get involved under certain conditions. But don’t get hopeful (if you want intervention, that is). Check out the conditions:

On Monday, Ambassador James B. Cunningham, Washington’s deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, told colleagues that the United States could send troops in the event of a peaceful negotiated settlement supported by other countries and on condition that President Taylor step down and turn himself over to the special court in Sierra Leone.

Gotta say, that ain’t particularly likely.

This is a tricky issue and it’s not obvious (to me, at least) what to do. I’ve just spent several months slagging the Bush admin for invading another country without thinking very hard about all the possible consequences. So I’m not keen to jump into advocating a military intervention without a clear idea of what it would accomplish and how it would accomplish it. Notice, also, that there are substantive measures that the rest of the world could take short of military intervention. To take just one example, Western countries might put more pressure on Western companies profiting from the chaos there (and in the DRC).

There is one aspect of the U.S.’s approach which I like, and that is refusing any deal that let’s Taylor off the hook. In the short run, I admit, this position is only going to make things worse. Taylor will have that much less reason to bargain or negotiate if he’s only negotiating his way into prison. Still, Taylor doesn’t have many options either way, and there seems to be a compelling interest in pressing for justice here.

If I’ve got time in the next few days, perhaps I’ll try to work out my thoughts a little more clearly on this.

I do notice a rather deafening silence on the issue from those pundits who were asking – nay, imploring – the anti-war movement to think of the freedom of the Iraqi people last spring. (Send counterexamples, if any, to:

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