Daniel W. Drezner

Is the Ivory Coast a data point for neoconservatives?

Your humble blogger has been negligent remiss in not discussing the developing situation in the Ivory Coast.  As near as I can figure, the state of play is as follows: 1)  There was a presidential election last November 2)  Everyone and their mother recognizes that Alassane Ouattara defeated current ruler Laurent Gbagbo… except for Gbagbo. ...

Your humble blogger has been negligent remiss in not discussing the developing situation in the Ivory Coast.  As near as I can figure, the state of play is as follows:

1)  There was a presidential election last November

2)  Everyone and their mother recognizes that Alassane Ouattara defeated current ruler Laurent Gbagbo… except for Gbagbo.

3)  Ouattara is now holed up in the Hotel du Golf under the protection of UN peacekeepers and private security forces.  Despite mounting pressure from the United States, European Union, United Nations, and Ecowas, Gbagbo is acting like he ain’t going anywhere. 

Now we have this BBC report

The UN-recognised president-elect of Ivory Coast has called for a West African special forces operation to remove incumbent leader Laurent Gbagbo.

Alassane Ouattara’s administration says the time for discussion with Mr Gbagbo, who is refusing to step down following November’s election, is over.

The West African regional body Ecowas has threatened to force Mr Gbagbo out, but is trying mediation efforts first….

Mr Ouattara, who has many supporters in northern Ivory Coast, said it was just a question of removing Mr Gbagbo from power and taking control of key buildings like the presidential palace.

"Legitimate force doesn’t mean a force against Ivorians," Mr Ouattara told reporters on Thursday, AFP news agency reports.

"It’s a force to remove Laurent Gbagbo and that’s been done elsewhere, in Africa and in Latin America, there are non-violent special operations which allow simply to take the unwanted person and take him elsewhere."

However, Ecowas does not have the sophisticated equipment and personnel needed for a special forces operation, our reporter says.

This raises a somewhat awkward question — could this be one of those cases where neoconservatives have a valid point about the use of force?  The past decade of U.S. military misadventures has clearly dulled the appetite for new military missions among the mass public, most of the foreign policy community and, well, me.  That said, this could be one of those cases when unilateral U.S. force might be the best available policy option.   [But what about ECOWAS?–ed.  Sure, if they could gear up, that would be even better.  As the BBC suggests, however, it’s not clear that they have the capability to do so.]

Note my stress on the word "could" in that last sentence — the Ivory Coast has been wracked by civil conflict during this past decade and U.S. action could just make things worse.  But I’m not sure about that assertion either. 

What do you think? 

 Twitter: @dandrezner

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