Liberia’s cease-fire is typically described as “fragile.” That’s like saying the United Nations can be, well, disputatious. The return of the abyss seems but another atrocity away.
Liberia has been a mess for a long time, but nothing matches the carnage-filled regime of President Charles Taylor. In the aftermath of Taylor’s coup against Samuel Doe in 1989, virtually the entire population of 3.3 million has been displaced and hundreds of thousands have been killed — often brutally. Taylor has been indicted for war crimes by a special U.N. court.
Now, as the U.S. explores the possibility of sending in troops as part of an international peacekeeping — or peace-establishing — force, Taylor has indicated an interest in stepping down — AFTER the arrival of peacekeepers. Details are yet to be fleshed out, and subplot scenarios abound.
Taylor, who was trained in the guerrilla camps of Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, is a certifiably dishonorable man. He’s earned that rep the old-fashioned way: he’s been accused of trafficking in weapons and diamonds, conscripting child soldiers and backing rebels known for raping and hacking off the limbs of civilians. He is not to be trusted — or believed.
So, suppose he doesn’t go gently into that Nigerian night for some asylum? What if a bunch of henchmen follow suit? What if Liberia starts to look ominously like Somalia, the sequel? What if the “Q” word — quagmire — looks increasingly applicable to Liberia?
Now suppose the U.S. reissues another — Iraqiesque — deck of most-wanted playing cards? Taylor would obviously be the prize catch. Would Taylor be the Ace of Spades?
How politically incorrect would that be?