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June 13, 2003

PETER BEINART can't avoid anti-Bush snarking, but the real point of this column is that the United States isn't imperialist enough. Of course, he wrote the column before the utterly pathetic nature of the French presence in the Congo became inescapably clear. Surely Beinart doesn't think that token pseudo-interventions of that sort would be a good thing.

It's also a bit dodgy to treat Liberia as equivalent to a colony. It was, I think, rather sui generis.

UPDATE: InstaPundit reader, and typical New Yorker, Greg Packer writes:

I'm not at all persuaded by Beinart's piece. Ordinary New Yorkers like me think the President is doing a fine job. I've told a bunch of New York Times reporters that, but they keep mangling my quotes. Who does a typical joe like me call about that, anyway?

Who, indeed? David Manning, maybe.

UPDATE: David Adesnik writes that I don't give enough weight to the idea that a successful interventin in Liberia wouldn't be that hard, but then goes on to make the same point that I at least thought I was making above:

The one thing Peter doesn't seem to recognize is that rampant accusations of imperialism in the run-up to the second Gulf War may, in part, be responsible for US disinterest in Liberia. Given that Cheney, Rumsfeld and Bush are predisposed to ignoring Africa, they're probably thinking to themselves: "Why bother with Liberia? It has no strategic value. And the Europeans will only accuse us of unilateralist imperialism if we go ahead and act. Let them take care of it if human rights are so important."

I agree with David that this view is suboptimal, but it's also true -- in no small part as a result of European obstructionism -- that the United States is not in a position to easily intervene anywhere else at the moment. U.S. troops are rather thoroughly occupied. There are plenty of idle French and German and even Belgian troops available.