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Those whom the gods would destroy...

By William S. Lind
web posted July 14, 2003

While there are many contenders for the title of worst hellhole on earth, West Africa probably takes the prize. Some years ago, when life in West Africa was a great deal better than it is today, a prominent American black athlete went there for an event. After just twenty-four hours, he said, "Thank God my granddaddy got on that boat!"

One of the reasons West Africa beats out even New Jersey in the hellhole contest, is that the state has disappeared (would that New Jersey might follow its example). Yes, there are still lines on the map indicating "borders," and there are still capital cities and governments. But the capitals rule little but themselves (if that), and the governments are merely the gang that currently controls the capital. The only borders that are real are shifting lines between the turf of rival gangs.

A U.S. soldier is greeted by Liberian children in Monrovia on July 8. U.S. President George W. Bush will be ready to decide within days whether to send U.S. troops in to Liberia
A U.S. soldier is greeted by Liberian children in Monrovia on July 8. U.S. President George W. Bush will be ready to decide within days whether to send U.S. troops in to Liberia

Since West Africa is marked on the maps of sensible people by a flashing neon sign that reads, "Don't Come Here," (and always has been; the older version is, "Beware, beware the Bight of Benin, for few come out though many go in"), it appears that America is now going there. The President is pondering whether to send American troops to Liberia, and the betting is that the troops will soon be on their way.

The obvious question is, "To accomplish what?" The official answer will be phrased in the Washington Newspeak of "protecting human life," "restoring essential services," and so on, but the real answer is, "To restore the state." That gives America's soldiers (more likely Marines in this case, I think) an impossible mission.

The Washington Establishment thinks of the world in terms of states because in America, it is the state that matters. An anti-Establishment candidate, from the Left or from the Right, has no chance, not because the people won't vote for him, but because the Establishment keeps him off the ballot or at least out of the debates. From the Establishment's standpoint, the state is a great racket, because it is their racket. Many politicians arrive in Washington poor, but few leave it in that condition.

Because the Establishment is a closed system, the external voices that are warning about Forth Generation warfare and its first cause, the state's crisis of legitimacy, are not heard in Washington. Several years ago when I attended a joint Marine Corps/State Department conference on "peacekeeping," after the State Department types found out what I represented, they asked the marines, "Then why is he here?" How did someone with non-Establishment views penetrate the sanctuary? Quelle horreur!

Experience also seems to have no impact on those now running America's defense and foreign policies. In Afghanistan, we destroyed a weak state and found we cannot recreate it. In Iraq, we destroyed a strong state and find we cannot recreate it. In Liberia, we will find no state, and our troops will be told to create one from scratch. The Establishment shouts, "Good luck, boys," and waves its handkerchiefs as the military sets out on a fool's errand. The military knows the real score, of course, but as in the Vietnam War, no one at a senior level seems to have the guts to resign in protest.

Nor does the madness end with an inevitable failure in Liberia. In Washington, the Joint Staff labors frantically to create plans for American invasions of more countries. One disastrous attempt at "regime change" begets another, in a political/military version of the Sorcerer's Apprentice. With what army will we perform these invasions, our own being more than fully occupied at this pint? Who will pay the bills? How will we prevent the rest of the world from joining against us in fear and loathing? There are no answers, only further flights deeper and deeper into Cloudcuckooland.

An American intervention in Liberia, or anywhere else in West Africa, will prove beyond doubt that the Establishment has no understanding whatsoever of the most important fact of 21st century life, the withering away of the state. As the brilliant Spanish naval officer and reformer Captain Churucca said at Trafalgar of the French commander of the Combined Fleet, Admiral Villeneuve, "He does not know his business. We are lost! We are lost!"

William S. Lind is Director of the Center for Cultural Conservatism.

Other related stories: (open in a new window)

  • A campaign for liberty: The Liberian occupation by Gennady Stolyarov II (July 14, 2003)
    Gennady Stolyarov II would support an American-led occupation of Liberia if it would answer certain issues and not just be another example of wrong-headed altruism
  • On Liberia: Intervention for me, but not for thee by W. James Antle III (July 7, 2003)
    Just months after America was decried by some for being imperialist for invading Iraq in the interests of American national security, W. James Antle III says those same people are now demanding American intervention in Liberia
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