As real-life bad guys go, it doesn’t get much worse than Joseph Kony. He’s the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army, a cultish militia in central Africa that survives by plundering villages, massacring adults and forcing boys to become soldiers and girls to become sex slaves.
President Barack Obama has ordered the deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help regional militaries capture or kill Kony and his commanders. It’s a modest and reasonable plan, and a good idea.
The LRA, which practices a bizarre form of mysticism, has terrorized central Africa since the late 1980s, its barbarism forcing millions of people to flee their homes at least temporarily over the years. Previous crackdowns pushed the group out of Uganda and weakened it. But the last campaign scattered the LRA, estimated at between 200 and 300 fighters today, over an area the size of California where the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan meet.
To effectively fight the group in the heavy bush in which it operates, the militaries of these countries need the kind of help that U.S. advisers can offer best from a forward deployment: logistics, planning and especially intelligence. The main goal is to neutralize Kony, since the LRA would probably collapse without him.
The dispatch of U.S. military advisers is plainly authorized by a 2010 law calling for “political, economic, military and intelligence support” for multinational efforts to apprehend Kony and his minions. Congress passed the measure with strong bipartisan support. The administration’s explicit objective is simple and achievable: to free area residents from the threat of LRA violence.
Why should the U.S. get involved? It’s a fair question, even if the loudest critic of the policy got the facts preposterously wrong: Rush Limbaugh generated a ripple of opposition to the deployment after he blasted Obama for targeting what he characterized as a group fighting dictatorship. The LRA are Christians fighting Muslims, Limbaugh said, in a colossal irrelevance that was also factually incorrect.
Neutralizing the LRA is worth the minimal cost to the U.S. Treasury and risk to U.S. forces for several reasons. First, the U.S. already spends tens of millions of dollars every year providing humanitarian assistance to communities assaulted by the LRA. Second, the U.S. depends on the cooperation of other countries to counter global terrorist threats, which often arise out of local and regional conflicts. Helping those nations face their own challenges strengthens ties and builds goodwill for the U.S.
Finally, assisting the people of central Africa end the scourge of the LRA is simply the decent thing for Americans to do.
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