At a lunch on the lawn of the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf offered this happy toast to the health and prosperity of the American president and his country, which she described as Liberia’s “number one partner.” Liberia was the final destination on Bush’s six-day tour of Africa, and he received accolades there echoing the praises sung to him in his previous stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana. Beninese can now even celebrate a day named after President Bush — his trip there was the first ever by an American president — and Ghanaians can drive on a highway named in his honor.

Undoubtedly, President Bush deserves compliments for much of his work in Africa. His administration has greatly increased assistance to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and has invested significant sums in promoting development. Humanitarian aid, however, is not a sufficient policy on its own, particularly in a society still experiencing the tensions of 14 years of civil war. The billions of dollars that the U.S. contributes to fighting disease, as well as the millions of textbooks that Bush has promised to provide for Liberia’s educational system, must be supplemented by concrete contributions to maintaining peace and stability in Liberia. Unfortunately, President Bush’s budget proposal falls almost $50 million short of meeting the needs of the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia, which, as we’ve mentioned before, was critical to Liberia’s dramatic turnaround and will continue to be central to its stability in the future.

At a lunch on the lawn of the Executive Mansion in Monrovia, Liberian president Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf offered this happy toast to the health and prosperity of the American president and his country, which she described as Liberia’s “number one partner.” Liberia was the final destination on Bush’s six-day tour of Africa, and he received accolades there echoing the praises sung to him in his previous stops in Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana. Beninese can now even celebrate a day named after President Bush – his trip there was the first ever by an American president – and Ghanaians can drive on a highway named in his honor.

Undoubtedly, President Bush deserves compliments for much of his work in Africa. His administration has greatly increased assistance to combat HIV/AIDS and malaria and has invested significant sums in promoting development. Humanitarian aid, however, is not a sufficient policy on its own, particularly in a society still experiencing the tensions of 14 years of civil war. The billions of dollars that the U.S. contributes to fighting disease, as well as the millions of textbooks that Bush has promised to provide for Liberia’s educational system, must be supplemented by concrete contributions to maintaining peace and stability in Liberia. Unfortunately, President Bush’s budget proposal falls almost $50 million short of meeting the needs of the UN peacekeeping force in Liberia, which continues to provide essential security in a country still rife with weapons and threatened by violence.

Though she did not suggest “drinking lustily” to UN peacekeepers in this specific toast, Johnson-Sirleaf has been very outspoken in her support of the UN’s accomplishments in Liberia, which include organizing the free elections that brought her to power and bringing former dictator Charles Taylor to justice. President Bush too should greatly appreciate the efforts of these blue helmets, who greatly eased the concerns of his security detail by patrolling the streets of Monrovia during Bush’s visit.

President Bush’s commitments to fund development efforts in Africa are more than welcome to the Africans who have cheered him in their capitals, and they should be appreciated by Americans of all political stripes as well. However, President Bush cannot shirk from the U.S.’s responsibilities to contribute to peacekeeping efforts. Speaking from Rwanda earlier on his trip, Bush suggested that the delay in deploying peacekeepers to Darfur rests solely on the shoulders of other nations. The U.S. enjoys tremendous influence on the international stage, and it should use its position to both fully fund UN peacekeeping missions and to exert concentrated diplomatic pressure on countries like China, Russia, and Egypt that have been slowing the deployment of the force in Darfur.

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