Liberia was established by Americans for Americans. The American Colonization Society, established by an act of Congress in 1816, was empowered to facilitate a program of sending freed slaves back to Africa. There were several reasons for this. Most important was the fear of some leading White Americans that Americans of African decent would become too numerous. This fear was given impetus by the so–called Nat Turner Rebellion of 1831 in Virginia, in which 65 Whites were massacred by Blacks.
In describing Liberia’s relationship to the United States of America, someone once coined the term, “America’s step child”. It is a description to which many Liberians take exception, although the description may be an apt appellation. Liberians’ furious rejection of this description is quite justifiable, because if the country is described as such, what does that make Liberians to Americans?
Many perceive this step-child relationship as meaning the country remains a perpetual juvenile. This idea psychologically undermines sovereignty and self esteem and many Liberians argue forcefully and continuously against it.
This debate about AFRICOM, the proposed US military base in Africa, and maybe Liberia, has kicked this age-old debate into full gear again. Is Liberia America’s step child? Is America worthy of the honor? Has America demonstrated any moral responsibility towards Liberia? In short, what has America done for Liberia lately?
To justify their argument, those opposed to the cozy relationship remind others to exercise caution and restraint in expressing faith in America. They rightfully raise such issues as: Where was the US during the Liberian crises? Many argue that as a principal ally of Liberia, the United States had an obligation to intervene when a legitimate government was overthrown in 1980. But not only did America not intervene to rescue the toppled government, she actually increased aid to the military government and actually hosted the leader of the coup at a White House dinner, thereby accentuating its legitimacy.
It is axiomatic that American soldiers should not be put at risk without careful deliberation and good odds for success. In the case of Liberia, those requirements have been met. The White House has studied the Liberia issue closely, a Pentagon fact-finding team has visited Liberia and returned, and the United Nations has repeatedly urged Washington to act. Ordinary Liberians desperately plead for American help.
No other country in Africa is more closely tied to America than Liberia. And no other countries in the continent could welcome Americans more readily than Liberia. Liberians consider themselves partly Americans. The country is largely modeled after America. Both names of their nation, "Liberia," and that of the most important city of the country, Monrovia, all derive from America's experience and history. Monrovia is a special dedication to James Monroe, a great American patriot. It is absolutely unfair to lump the Liberians in the same mold with the Somalis. That is a terrible injustice to the Liberians and to history itself.