Thoughts on Kony 2012

Watching the Kony 2012 phenomenon unfold has been interesting. I’ve come to the conclusion that while the people behind they campaign are well-meaning, its not really useful or helpful. In other words, it’s pretty typical of campaigns to “raise awareness” these days.

It is a rather sad indictment on our mainstream media though. Kony 2012 did not reveal any facts that have not been public knowledge for some time. But get a slick and somewhat emotionally manipulative video to go viral and media outlets are suddenly falling over themselves to show their moral cred by promoting it. But the crimes of the L.R.A., while terrible, are not new. And horrifyingly, on the scale of violence and misery in Africa, the L.R.A. is actually small potatoes.

On the other hand, the reaction to Kony 2012 has definitely done some good. It has put the spotlight on a part of the world westerners usually pay no attention to, and started a genuinely useful conversation. People knowledgable about Uganda and surrounds have taken the chance to engage in the debate. To pick just one example, see the pieces by Michael Wilkerson in Foreign Policy and CiF.

The Arresting Officer

I can’t help but notice that many supporters of Kony 2012 seem to belong to another group: the “anti-war” crowd that has just spent roughly the last ten years decrying Western Imperialism and damning U.S. foreign policy as unmitigated evil. Am I the only one to find this ironic? If the world is to “stop” Kony, to which nation would the task fall? To which political leadership is the Kony 2012 campaign directed? Ban Ki-moon and his bureaucrats? Ha.

As the video shows, President Obama took action against Kony back in October last year. 100 troops were sent to advise the Ugandan forces who are hunting him down. Not huge, but it’s something, and doing more gets tricky very quickly. And while the video wants you to worry that the U.S. may pull out, there’s no indication of any plan to leave. At the time, there was no substantial public pressure to take action. There is no American interest at stake, no ulterior motive. Just a desire to bring one of the world’s worst war criminals to justice. How much time do you think Vladimir Putin has spent thinking about the plight of enslaved African children? What about Hu Jintao?

Why is the Kony 2012 campaign focused completely on U.S. policy? Or to switch to another example among many: when a Coptic Egyptian calls for aid for his beleaguered minority, why does he address his letter to the President of the United States? Why do the Syrians who are able to speak freely protest against Russia, not the great power some claim has “angered Muslims everywhere”?

Now, I’m not trying to defend every foreign intervention by the U.S. as noble or wise. My goal is just to give you something to think about next time you hear someone engage in cheap rhetoric about “U.S. Imperialism”.

Rush Limbaugh Bonus Feature

Just in case you missed this back in October, here’s Stephen Colbert covering Rush Limbaugh’s reaction to the President’s decision to go after Kony.

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