At press time, Taylor had agreed, under pressure from the U.S. and others, to leave Liberia, but the U.S.'s policy objectives require a more stable government in Liberia anyway. In the first place, with the war on terror replacing the Cold War, Liberia could serve as a listening post and operations center for combating Al Qaeda and other militant groups in Africa.
This is important because West Africa might well emerge as a major supplier to the U.S. of oiland especially natural gas. An increased supply of natural gas is a cardinal part of Bush's energy program. That in turn would mean carrying frozen natural gas across the ocean on special liquefied natural gas (LNG) tankers and building ports and processing stations. This is a highly controversial venture because an LNG explosion, either accidental or deliberate, would be devastating.
Any sort of regular LNG tanker operations across the Atlantic from West Africa to the East Coast inevitably would be accompanied by vastly increased military operations in the sea and air to protect the fuel from terrorists' attacks.
Finally, Bush's foray into Africa carries meaning for his re-election campaign. The religious right is taking credit for getting the president into Africa. Moreover, for 20 years the GOP right wing has drooled over the idea of breaking the Democratic Party's grip on the black vote. Despite all his talk, Clinton did little for Africa, and indeed had to apologize for not acting in the Rwanda disaster. Should Bush actually get seriously involved in combating AIDS and poverty, and if he succeeds in stabilizing West Africa, he may at long last begin the process of pulling black votes from the Democrats.