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Liberal interventionism in Liberia: towards a tentatively just approach?

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This article argues that international actors have contributed to the peace process in Liberia both in terms of short-term conflict resolution and in relation to its longer-term consolidation, through an intervention consisting of means short of the use of force. It suggests that the strategy of global law enforcement imposed by international actors fulfils to some extent the criteria for just interventions as set out by the ICISS, although these claims to justness become more tentative in relation to the higher standards of human security protection. The more positive impacts of the strategy reflect its attempts to address the deeper roots of the country's protracted crisis, which lie in historical processes of state failure deriving from dysfunctional political economy structures, which were intensified during the conflict. The policies adopted, of sanctions targeted at commodities and individuals involved in the war economy, and the indictment and prosecution of some, have contributed both to reducing impunity and to strengthening economic governance. The strategy was seriously undermined however by its selective enforcement and a failure to promote the reform of democratic governance in addition to economic aspects. Despite this unwillingness to take sufficiently robust actions in some areas, and the crucial role of local factors, in particular, the election of an experienced President committed to reform, the article maintains that the international actions have been instrumental in the transformation that may finally be being achieved in Liberia, demonstrating both that the turnaround of even the most apparently hopeless failed states is possible, and that the international community can make important contributions to this process.

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