Okay brace yourself, I’m about to say something unpopular here. Yes, even MORE unpopular than my views on Blade Runner.
I don’t know how I feel about this Kony 2012 movement that has taken the internet by storm over the last 48 hours. While I think the cause is worthwhile and I am very impressed by Invisible Children’s ability to harness the power of social networking to make it simple and (of course) cool to join a social movement, I wonder if people are actually stopping to think about what they’re supporting.
I know the video is moving and the story is terrifying, but pushing our government to send troops into Africa to engage the Lord’s Resistance Army in the Congo is a scary and not particularly well-thought out idea. Currently, no one knows where Joseph Kony is, because he and the rest of the LRA were run out of Uganda over a half decade ago. Northern Ugandans have been enjoying peace and increasing safety ever since the LRA retreated out of the country. This situation is different than when we went into Iraq and were able to topple Saddam’s regime because we knew where his palaces were. The LRA is hiding out in the jungle and this whole thing has the potential to turn into a quagmire that would be impossible to extricate our military from.
The reality is that while Joseph Kony is the focus of the film, he is not the entire problem. Just like killing Osama bin Laden didn’t end terrorism, capturing Kony will not end the problems in central Africa. If we did manage to capture Kony (if he’s even still alive) it is safe to assume the LRA will continue to commit atrocities in his absence. At that point, will we just leave and allow the LRA to mercilessly retaliate against the people of the Congo and Uganda in our absence? If we stay longer to help fully defeat the LRA after Kony’s capture, are we then going to send our troops to Sudan to give assistance there too? What about Somalia? What about the little-known horrors taking place in Liberia?
My question is, once the United States starts employing military intervention in Africa, when will we stop? It’s hard to rationalize being against the Iraq war while being in support of sending troops deep into the Congo to hunt down Joseph Kony.
I’m not saying that bringing awareness to the atrocities of the LRA is a bad thing, I’m just saying before you throw your support behind something just because a movie was well-edited and moving (which it was) and the campaign is going viral, it’s a good idea to do a little independent research and think about what your time and money is going to support. I was a pretty big supporter of Invisible Children in the past. I helped raise awareness for the cause, participating in the Global Night Commute and showing the film back in high school, but I just think that pushing for U.S. military action in another country is something that deserves real in-depth discussion, not just Twitter hash tags and Facebook posts.
In the coming weeks, I would hope that Invisible Children will outline an action plan to further explain what it is exactly they are hoping the United States will do to assist in the capture of Joseph Kony. The 30-minute film is obviously intended to tug at the heartstrings and get people thinking, but it doesn’t do much to explain their plans outside of getting Rihanna and Jay-Z to tweet about the issue and sticker-bomb mailboxes and street signs in NYC. Until I know more about their plans, I will remain on the fence. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t support Invisible Children’s campaign, I’m just saying that human rights issues like this are incredibly complicated and they deserve real discussion.
- I suggest checking out the Justice in Conflict website for further debate on the subject and essays written by advocates regarding this and other human rights situations around the world.
- I suggest reading “What is the What?” by Dave Eggers if you’d like a wonderful book that illustrates the struggles of former child soldiers and young children displaced by civil war (not set in Uganda, but in Sudan). It’s a powerful and moving portrayal of courage in the wake of an unspeakably brutal childhood, but if you are at all interested in the situation then this book will really open up the human side of the issue.