The Buzz

Kony and U.S. Interests

“The Americans have captured Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein. . . . Surely they can catch Joseph Kony.”

These words, spoken by a tribal chief in the Central African Republic and quoted by Sudarsan Raghavan in the Washington Post, sum up the frustrations of many Americans after viewing “Kony 2012.” They also illustrate the absurdity of the viral video and ensuing frenzy. Raghavan’s piece suffers from the now-familiar Kony 2012 fever that has tripped up many well-meaning journalists.

Raghavan bemoans the fact that U.S. troops, in central Africa for four months, have not yet captured the villainous Joseph Kony and stopped his Lord’s Resistance Army. He quotes locals concerned that “‘the presence of the Americans has not changed anything’” who “‘don’t see what [the Americans] are doing to catch Kony.’” 

But these lamentations miss the pivotal fact that the small contingent of U.S. forces is doing precisely what it was deployed to do—“provide information, advice, and assistance to select partner nation forces.” By Raghavan’s own admission, “the United States . . . provided nearly $50 million in logistical support and nonlethal equipment to Uganda’s military to fight the LRA” and spent nearly $500 million to aid LRA victims. Kony’s militia, robust just a few years ago, is “in survival mode,” “numbers no more than a few hundred fighters,” “is no longer abducting children in large numbers and is staging attacks mostly to steal food and supplies.” All this points to a fair degree of success since Washington formalized its commitment to stopping Kony in 2010.

Of course, Joseph Kony is still at large. That failure, although not one that should be laid entirely on American shoulders, is undeniable. But comparing him to Bin Laden, who took thousands of American lives, or Hussein, who some argued was a direct threat to U.S. national interests, borders on irresponsible. And even if the comparison were apt, it took a decade of hunting and billions of taxpayer dollars to find Bin Laden, and the cost of overthrowing Hussein was unforgettably steep. Raghavan’s flawed piece glosses over this unpleasant reality.