Kony is the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa who has been indicted for crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Invisible Children got more than 300,000 young Americans to plaster their cities with KONY posters, urging U.S. leaders to escalate military force in the region to finally bring an end to the 25-year war that Kony has waged in Africa.
Ben Keesey, CEO of Invisible Children said his group wants the U.S. to help lead four initiatives in Africa: civilian protection, encouragement of safe defection for current LRA soldiers, rehabilitating the region, and the “pursuit of LRA top commanders.” He said catching LRA leaders is perhaps most important, and that last fall, the U.S. deployed approximately 100 military advisors to the region to assist in restoring the region. Invisible Children wants the U.S. to deploy more military forces to catch Kony faster. Because although he and his army were pushed out of Uganda, the LRA continues to wage war on the Central African region, putting children’s lives at risk.
The people behind Invisible Children and their supporters are advocating for peace by means of war. Keesey and his supporters believe sending soldiers after the guerrilla leader is justified by evidence of widespread human rights violations, including murder, kidnapping, sexual slavery and forcing children to become soldiers.
“When it comes to the most extreme crimes against humanity that are defined…in those extraordinary circumstances, I do believe that we as global citizens should rethink the way we think of national security,” Keesey said.
Ambassador Robert Loftis, interagency professional in residence at the United States Institute for Peace said these young protesters are the latest in a long line of activists: “The impetus to look for military intervention where there are gross human rights abuses is not at all new.”
Young activists have their hearts in the right place, said Loftis. But the idea that the United States can embark in “a clean splendid little war,” is naive. Military intervention, Loftis said, always ends up being more complicated than what it appears at the outset.
For years, people have been appealing to the U.S. government to use force to aid in humanitarian issues, those that don’t threaten U.S. national security, said Loftis, a 30-year State Department veteran who worked on issues of civilian-military cooperation in Africa and the Middle East. Loftis pointed out the trend among Hollywood heavy-weights like George Clooney to rally Americans around a cause, pleading with the government to step in. And he said it is somewhat ironic that the same people calling for the military to step up operations in Central Africa are calling for the U.S. to leave Iraq and Afghanistan in spite of many injustices happening to Iraqis and Afghans by their own government, and in some cases, by the U.S. military.
“Once you put a national presence – military force – on the line, it forces decisions that shake up the situation, making it worse,” said Loftis. Military intervention, he said, should be used only as a last resort.
In a Senate hearing on the LRA and the war in Central Africa last month, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) testified that capturing Kony and putting an end to his 26-year “reign of terror” should not be difficult for the American military. “This is not, contrary to what some of the experts say, that complicated,” Landrieu said.