Iraq: reputedly mad dictator, government corruption, rumours of government-sponsored human rights abuses, rumours of terrorist networks, oil.
Liberia: obviously mad dictator, textbook government corruption, people beaten and shot in front of international cameras, no oil.
US position on Iraq: get in there and get rid of that madman before he makes trouble. Even if we’re not really sure he will make trouble. We’re pretty sure he’ll make trouble. Certainly we’ll tell everybody that we know he’ll make trouble. Bottom line – get in there and don’t come out til everything is under (our) control.
US position on Liberia: Weeeeeelllllll, we’re not going in until all this shooting people stuff stops. And some one will have to do something about Taylor before we even consider stepping off the boats. And if we do come in, we’re only staying for a minute – and we’re not all coming. We’re really kind of tied up… we’ll see. Consider this a definite maybe. But give our love to the UN.
Major difference (aside from the oil, which various people claim is not a factor): The rest of the world tried to get the US to slow down on Iraq. The UN tried to get the US to reconsider on Iraq. The citizens of Iraq, by and large, were not standing in front of news cameras begging the US to come save them.
In Liberia, people are carrying placards imploring ‘Uncle Sam’ to hurry the heck up. The UN is dropping not-so-subtle hints that they could really use some help, if anyone’s looking for something to do. The international community is actually asking the US to get involved.
I’m sure there are myriad levels of political incentives and rationales for the US global strategy, and it’s just me that doesn’t understand. But I can’t help thinking of my three-year-old son and what we call “the Yes/No game.”
At least we’re pretty sure our son will grow out of it.