William F. Buckley

W are hard up on it in the matter of Liberia. The nation-changers see it as one more nation to change and who would vote against a different nation, except for the matter of how to bring it about? The nation-changing program in Iraq is going muddily, and it is good news that the Iraqi guerrillas don't have weapons of mass destruction at hand, but rifle fire and an occasional hand grenade serve their political purposes. They aren't enough to drive the Coalition forces out of the country, but they are enough to give off a Chechnyan smell of perpetual armed resistance.

Three considerations appear to be converging, in the matter of Liberia. The first is pretty unqualified approval of intervention by the United Nations. The second is the warrant issued for the arrest of Charles Taylor as a war criminal. The third is a perceived sense that some singular exertion should be made to do something in black Africa.

The best thing that has happened in very recent years in that part of the world was the willingness of the British, with some help from the French, to send a detachment of soldiers to Sierra Leone to tell them they had to stop chopping off some children's hands and sticking rifles into the hands of others. That form of civil life was something of an endowment by Charles Taylor, who has proudly thought himself the center of revolutionary activity on the west coast of Africa.

Africa is a terrible mess, and the inclination over the years has been to turn one's head away from it, in part because of an accepted sense of futility in trying to do anything about it, in part because there is a suspicion, mostly unexpressed, that black countries simply don't know how to maintain civil democratic order. Oh, we go through the proper formalities. Everybody cheered the day that Ian Smith stepped down and Mugabe stepped up. In the Congo, The Economist puts the figure of dead in fighting at 4.7 million. Oh, and in the Sudan, something over 2 million in two decades. And we all know about Rwanda and Burundi and the l.5 million dead. Abstention presupposes a callused capacity for detachment from this continental gore, as we whistle along, year after year. The figures of African dead amount to many times the loss of Allied troops in the Second World War, and come near to the numbers of the Holocaust. But what we are trained to celebrate is decolonialization. There is little in post-decolonialization to warrant celebration.

William F. Buckley

William F. Buckley, Jr. is editor-at-large of National Review, the prolific author of Miles Gone By: A Literary Autobiography.

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