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

  • Raymond Kwun Sun LauEmail author
Part of the Advances in African Economic, Social and Political Development book series (AAESPD)


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.


Mogadishu factor/Somalia syndrome Rwanda effect New interventionism Military intervention for humanitarian purposes Responsibility to Protect (R2P) Bush doctrine Global War on Terrorism 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryHong Kong Baptist UniversityKowloon Tong, KowloonHong Kong

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