Listen, My Children...

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Monday, July 21, 2003

On Africa


I'm trying, but I just can't figure out what we ought to do about Africa. Liberia, in particular. I really don't know enough about it to be able to make a general-opinion-be-damned statement on what ought to be done, like those I make about India every once in a while. So, I have to sift through the general opinions from newspapers and activists about various things over the past few years, and I have to listen to what people seem to be saying. It's all very confusing.

Bush, Oxblog, and many others argue that Taylor's an evil man who needs to go. Ok, I'll agree with that -- got no reason not to. But how, and should we be involved more than just saying he's bad and should get lost?

Personally, I tend more towards the position of "The US should be the world's policeman -- well, actually, the UN should, but they're welshing on their promise -- because we are strong and capable of helping people who can't help themselves." Not everyone agrees with that; fair enough. Even for those who agree with it, though, it must be admitted that we're probably not capable of fixing every nation with problems all at once. We're busy enough right now as it is. Heck, we've still got a couple of soldiers in Germany and quite a bunch in Japan. (Yes, I know, it's part of our deal with Japan, we'll provide them with military defence. It's time we turned that back over to them, or at least gave them the option. What are they going to do to anyone? The nation with the highest rate of escalator deaths, as my Japanese textbook in Germany pointed out, due to people bowing at inopportune moments -- yeah, they're not going to take over the world anytime soon.)

So, taking it as a hypothetical (a huge one) that we can find enough resources to go into Liberia all by ourselves and then, due to our actions there, fix everything. Should we?

Gathering all the reasons not to go (culled from discussions about why not to do anything in Afghanistan or Iraq):
-We shouldn't interfere in sovereign nations' internal affairs.
-Taylor is the elected leader of the country -- the people obviously want him there, and he can do with them what he likes -- they're his people, and at least he was elected, unlike a certain US President.
-Going in, forcing upon them western-centric notions of "democracy" and "human rights" and all that -- it's just going to increase anti-American sentiment around the world.
-It's cultural imperialism.
-It's actual imperialism. We're taking over control of another country, for goodness' sake!
-We shouldn't even have our own army, much less use it elsewhere. It's an outdated notion based on the phallocentric power struggles between men ashamed of their own weaknesses. -If we use our military somewhere, our and their people might die. That's bad. Civilians will probably get caught up in it too.
-There's no actual military threat to our country (just to Americans living there, and the Embassy -- but those shouldn't be there anyhow!), and evil tyrranous regimes are no reason to go in and try to help those suffering.
Reasons to go that are different this time:
-Everyone who said these things above about Iraq, except for the supporters of those last three arguments (and even a few of them, oddly enough), says that we need to go in and fix Liberia.
Reasons to go, same as last time:
-There are people over there begging us to come, who lay the blood of their countrymen at the feet of a US (and UN, but people forget about them) too slow to aid them, and who are suffering terribly under their current rulers.
-(My argument) Those stronger should help those weaker if at all possible without grave damage to those stronger, whether or not those stronger are getting anything out of it.

But so many people, Jesse Jackson foremost among them, are using entirely opposite reasoning now from what they were using six months ago -- either I'm going crazy, or you obviously shouldn't believe a word any of them say. I'm confused.

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