Jewish World Review July 14, 2003 / 14 Tamuz, 5763
Sending troops to Liberia could be a bridge too far
The Bush administration is showing signs of all of the vices of successful foreign
policies - arrogance, overreaching, elitism, and messianic zeal - in its decision to
enter the Liberian quagmire.
Americans will gladly support their president when he attacks nations that sponsor
or harbor terrorists. We will even back him in a preemptive war against a country
that might attack us. But when we start sending troops around the world to stabilize
nations that, if left to disintegrate, might become breeding grounds for terror, it's a
step too far for most Americans.
Why are we suddenly sending troops to Africa?
Is it because President Bush is touring the continent and wants to have something to
offer the leaders he meets?
Is it in response to importuning from U.N General Secretary Kofi Annan or other
world leaders who are asking for a quid-pro-quo for sending troops to Iraq?
Does the desire to satisfy global public opinion play a role?
Or do his nostrils smell oil in West Africa?
None of the above is justification for sending American troops to yet another foreign
venue. Bush will need all the patience we can extend to him as he asks us to put up
with troops dying in Iraq while other units fight in Afghanistan, the Philippines and
other places where terrorism threatens. It is foolish to use up our tolerance with an
adventure in Liberia.
Nor should Bush put his trust in limitations on the mission in Liberia. One good
firefight and the United States is committed. Remember the reply of French Marshal
Foch to the British general who asked, in 1914, what was the minimum British
military contribution that could effectively assist France at the start of World War I.
"One British soldier," he is reputed to have answered.
"And we will see to it that he is killed."
Africa is a quagmire if ever there was one. The civil wars there are eternal and
unending. They have no start and no finish. The cycles of revenge make any
assessment of right and wrong, good or evil, almost na´ve.
It is not our fight, and we are unwise to, in the words of John Quincy Adams, "go
abroad in search of dragons to destroy."
Besides, the U.S. Army is not the only force in the world. We should let the African
nations and European powers take the lead while we husband our resources to fight
in heavy combat or where our presence alone can do the trick.
The growing potential of West Africa as a source of oil should not tempt us into
military action. We must make sure never to do what the left accuses us of doing
each day - trading blood for oil. The sudden interest in this oil-producing region
might leave many skeptical and troubled.
Bush must remember that a large minority of Americans, on both the left and right,
are isolationists. In a survey for President Clinton, I found the exact percentage to be
upwards of 35, evenly divided between the two parties.
Those America-firsters have suspended their criticism of Bush (at least those on the
right) because of the unique circumstances of the Sept. 11 attacks and the global
threat that terrorism represents. But it is unwise to tempt them into political
Idealism that makes no distinction between areas where our national interest lies
and those from which it is remote does no good for America. The weariness of the
post-Versailles, post-Korea, post-Vietnam eras is never far from the national mood.
Bush will need Americans to stay focused and alert as we face the common danger of
terror and work together in far flung corners of the globe to counter it.
He does himself and his cause no service by asking us to invest in conflicts remote
from our vital interests and far from our national mission.
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JWR contributor Dick Morris is the author of, among others, Off with Their Heads: Traitors, Crooks & Obstructionists in American Politics, Media & Business"
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© 2003, Dick Morris