AFRICOM and Liberia: A Case of Dashed Hopes
By: R. Wesley Harmon
Liberia has been vilified and castigated, to the extent of being called “America’s stepchild”, for its adherence to all things American, and for vigorously supporting American political positions. This support is, however appropriate, and predicated on the fact that the United States continues to provide sustained assistance to Liberia, especially in her darkest hours, and both leaders enjoy a kind of quiet confidence in each other. Therefore, contrary to the fact that others see this relationship as one of dependency, rather than one of mutual respect and trust, Liberia should and must support the U.S. positions in the face of, sometimes almost global opposition to U.S. interests, confirming the Biblical adage that, “A friend stickest closer than a brother”.
Despite the nuances that Liberia does not possess the requisite infrastructure to support AFRICOM’s headquarters’ deployment, there are times when demonstrating commitment to a friend means going the extra mile to ensure you don’t allow your friend to lose face in public. This would certainly not be the first time the U.S. military has setup shop under less than desirable circumstances. The construction of bases in Europe and Japan post World War II, as well as the construction of The Green Zone in Iraq, after the Iraq War, proves this point. While it is true that it may end up costing several millions more than under normal circumstances to locate AFRICOM’s Headquarters in Liberia, but this is the time for the U.S. to showcase its commitment to her trusted and true friend, Liberia. In the end the benefits that would accrue would far out-weigh the cost of weathering the storm of underdevelopment.
The imminent loss of stature Liberia faces by being by-passed will reverberate around the continent and the world for a very long time to come. For example, if Ghana, Nigeria or any other West African nation were chosen over Liberia to host AFRICOM, the myth of Liberia being the traditional friend of the U.S. would be forever shattered. Britain would never consider Liberia over Ghana or Nigeria for such a significant venture neither would France turn her back on Senegal or Ivory Coast. Why would the U.S. consider any other African country over Liberia for such a noble undertaking? On the other hand, if Liberia were chosen this would send a message, in the strongest possible terms, that the U.S. is ready to shed the image held by Africans that when it comes to dealing with the continent the U.S. does not have permanent friends but rather its interests are tantamount to everything else.
The Bush administration has championed issues affecting Africa more so than any other U.S. administration in recent history. We therefore call upon President Bush to prevail upon The Pentagon to do the right thing rather than the expedient thing, and choose Liberia for AFRICOM, by so doing it will send a stronger message to the continent and the world that will resonate louder than bestowing the Medal of Freedom upon President Johnson-Sirleaf.