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Is military intervention needed to stop warlord Joseph Kony?

Dietrich Neu
Features Editor

If it is the job of developed nations to protect failed states from the tyrants that control much of their countryside, then action against Kony is absolutely warranted.

However, if developed nations should only be obligated to intervene at times when their own perceived safety is at risk, then as Miller pointed out in Foreign Policy Magazine, Kony is hardly worth the effort.

Unfortunately, as was illuminated by the WikiLeaks cables, ulterior motives masked through a thin veil of “self-defence” littered the military intervention throughout the Middle East.

Indeed, many countries, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, are in much worse condition than when our troops arrived in the first place – an incredible statement considering areas of those countries were vile torture chambers, filled with human rights violations.

Furthermore, the killing of former Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin-Laden has predictably done nothing to stop the threat posed by his terrorist organization. His replacement, Ayman al-Zawahiri, immediately replaced Bin-Laden on “The 10 World’s Most Wanted.” Moreover, intelligence suggests that Al-Qaeda is still functioning just as it was before.

Within the international community, there is a set of norms called the “responsibility to protect.” The aim of RtoP is to prevent war crimes, mass genocide, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity.

According to the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, “If the State is unable to protect its population on its own, the international community has a responsibility to assist the state by building its capacity. This can mean building early-warning capabilities, mediating conflicts between political parties, strengthening the security sector, mobilizing standby forces, and many other actions.”

In addition, the document also points out that, “If a State is manifestly failing to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures are not working, the international community has the responsibility to intervene at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force.”

Although the responsibility to protect is not law, the RtoP is the standard by which the UN approves such actions.

As pointed out in the RtoP, military intervention is a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. In terms of the LRA in Africa, we have reached that point. Children murdering their parents and fighting in the military, millions of people are fleeing their homes, and individuals are subject to having their extremities cut off while they are still alive.

The governments in Uganda, Congo, and Sudan are not capable of protecting their citizens from the LRA. They need help; it might be time for the developed world to give it to them.

When are interventions justified?

Although it might seem to some that intervention in places like Uganda is a no-brainer, there are many factors involved in taking the drastic step to send troops to another country and take control using force.

There are two sides to this issue.

One school of thought, advocated by Tibor Machan, believes that military intervention is never necessary, and the purpose of the military is to defend citizens, not invade. With that said, a country would only be obliged to intervene when it is under contractual or constitutional obligation.

Although there are good points made by Machan, it seems callous for nations to stand by and watch as tyrants murder innocent people unchallenged. Ignoring tyrannical behaviour and violations of human rights unless they directly affect our nation’s bottom line is a difficult principle for many to stand behind. However, there are people, such as Miller from FPM, who believe just that. They claim conflicts that do not directly affect the economic or physical safety of a developed nation are not our business.

The other side of the picture revolves around the responsibility to protect, as defined in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document.

The basis of the responsibility to protects lies in the idea that “sovereignty is not a privilege, but a responsibility.” This means that if a nation cannot use its sovereignty to protect its citizens, then the international community has the obligation to step in and take action for them.

The responsibility to protect started to pick up steam after the famous genocide in Rwanda, in which an estimated 800,000 innocent people where killed as the international community stood by and watched.

After the conflict, many world leaders began to question the ethics of not intervening in such situations, and in 2005, the UN agreed that the RotP should indeed become the norm for handling international affairs of this type.

Unfortunately, as pointed out by critics such as Taylor Seybolt, the use of military intervention under these guidelines can create problems and allow developed nations to invade sovereign nations with veiled intentions. The intervention in Libya being a prominent example of a highly criticized operation, with many critics claiming that control of foreign oil was the main impetus for the arrival of NATO forces.
In either case, the decision to enter a country with military force is a complex one, bases on several factors. However, at the root of the RtoP, military intervention is only warranted when a country is no longer capable of protecting its people from harm.

Should the developed world intervene on Kony and the LRA?

This brings us back to the question we started with, should the developed world take action against Joseph Kony and the LRA? Several factors would contribute to making that decision.

The governments of Uganda, Congo, and Sudan have already shown they are incapable of putting an end to Kony and the LRA. Despite several attempts at peace negotiations, Kony has consistently ignored the idea of such talks, claiming that neither he, or any other LRA leaders would engage in talks unless granted immunity from prosecution.

In addition to this problem, government officials in both Sudan, and the DRC, have also ignored arrest warrants issued by the International Criminal Court, failing to apprehend Kony on several occasions. Indeed, there are even accusations by Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni that the Sudanese government is supplying the LRA with smuggled weapons.

With all of these problems swirling around the situation, the task of the developed world to intervene becomes even more difficult. As history has shown, even if the developed world does supply troops to stop the LRA, there is no telling if they can even get the job done.

In 2006, the United Nations mounted an attempt to kill Kony once and for all, using US-trained Guatemalan Special Forces. The Guatemalan troops were trained to live in the jungle for extended periods, and familiar with the guerrilla tactics used in areas with thick vegetation.

Despite being equipped with advanced technology and heavy weaponry, none of the Special-Ops troops survived. One report by Newsweek magazine even claimed that the LRA beheaded the leader of the Guatemalan Special Forces team.

If there is one thing that the assassination attempt in 2006 displayed, it is that there needs to be a larger commitment of military resources, or a change in strategy. It appears that the US has opted for the change in tactics, supplying 100 military advisors to the northern Uganda region. Time will tell if these advisors can make a difference and allow these countries to defend themselves. If not, it could very well be time to take more drastic action.

As unpopular as military interventions have become due to the debacles in the Middle East, this situation warrants such action.

The Lord’s Resistance Army is a militant group that is committing human rights violations left and right. Their leader is a religiously fanatical, crazed, psychopath who believes that he is an angel and receives direct commands from God. He brainwashes his army, predominantly made up of children who were forced to kill their own parents, that he is god’s messenger and murders people who believe otherwise.
Over the two-decades of his reign, 66,000 children have died fighting for Kony. He often forced his soldiers to torture their victims before killing them. The ICC filed arrest warrants on the LRA for crimes against humanity including child rape, child slavery, mutilation, abduction, and forcing children to participate in hostiles.

Up to this point, it is clear that this wave of terror throughout Uganda, the DRC, and Sudan will go unchallenged if left in the hands of those respective countries. Uganda and the DRC do not have the capabilities, and it appears that Sudan is unwilling.

Whether the help comes in the form of the military advisors, or more drastic measures, it is clear that the international community needs to do something to put and end to the LRA and Joseph Kony.

The livelihoods of millions are at stake.

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