The war in Afghanistan was an exception, but it doesn't count because it was clearly retaliation against an overt attack, and not even liberals can oppose a counterattack in a war the other side started. Such bolts from the blue are rare, however. They come about every half-century, the last one being Pearl Harbor. In between one has to make decisions about going to war in less axiomatic circumstances. And that is when the liberal Democrats fall into their solipsism of righteousness.
This is the core lunacy of Democratic foreign policy. Either it has no criteria for intervening militarily--after all, if we're going into Liberia, on what grounds are we not going into Congo?--or it has a criterion, and its logic is that the U.S. Army is a missionary service rather than a defender of U.S. interests.
What should be our criteria for military intervention? The answer is simple: strategic and moral necessity. Foreign policy is not social work. Acting for purely humanitarian reasons is wanton and self-indulgent. You don't send American soldiers to die to assuage troubled consciences at home. Their lives should be risked only in defense of their country.
Should we then do nothing elsewhere? In principle, we should try to help others by economic and diplomatic means and with appropriate relief agencies. Regarding Liberia, it is rather odd for the Europeans, who rail against American arrogance, to claim that all the armies of France and Germany, of Europe and Africa are powerless in the face of Charles Taylor--unless the Americans ride to the rescue.
We should be telling them to do the job, with an offer of American logistical help. We have quite enough on our plate in Iraq and Afghanistan and chasing al Qaeda around the world.
If nonetheless, the president finds the pressure irresistible to intervene in Liberia, he should send troops only under very clear conditions: America will share the burden with them if they share the burden with us where we need it. And that means peacekeepers in Iraq. The world cannot stand by watching us bleed in Iraq, and then expect us to bleed for it in Liberia.
Charles Krauthammer is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winner, 1984 National Magazine Award winner, and a columnist for The Washington Post since 1985.
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