Getting Beyond the Somalia Syndrome? Revisiting the United States’ Intervention in Liberia 15 Years Later

Kwun Sun Lau

Research output: Chapter in book/report/conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The 2003 US intervention in Liberia was the first time since the Somalia debacle in 1992 that Washington became involved again in military intervention with humanitarian purposes in Africa. While the ‘Mogadishu factor’ might explain the minimal and limited American involvement in Liberia’s second civil war, it does not adequately explain what has motivated the US government to re-engage in Liberia and West Africa since 2003. This chapter seeks to make a contribution to the debate on the use of military force in US foreign policy in arguing that US intervention in Liberia is situated in the broader context of American foreign policy towards Africa after 9/11. The principal argument here is that Washington’s partial rehabilitation from the ‘Somalia syndrome’ and gradual re-engagement with Liberia and the West Africa region is largely motivated by two major factors: the global war on terror and subsequent militarisation of US Africa policy, and the desire to enhance US energy security by shifting America’s foreign oil dependency away from the Middle East. The article concludes by examining the implication of US intervention in Liberia for future military interventions that comprise human protection purposes in Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationReimagining Justice, Human Rights and Leadership in Africa
Subtitle of host publicationChallenging Discourse and Searching for Alternative Paths
EditorsEveristo Benyera
PublisherSpringer Cham
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9783030251437
ISBN (Print)9783030251420, 9783030251451
Publication statusPublished - 24 Aug 2019

Publication series

NameAdvances in African Economic, Social and Political Development
ISSN (Print)2198-7262
ISSN (Electronic)2198-7270


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