By BJ Bjornson
I�m a little late on this one, but the news is that President Obama is sending 100 military advisors to Uganda to help fight the Lord�s Resistance Army. This is being done under the auspices of Right to Protect (R2P) legislation passed a couple of years ago and endorsed by Human Rights Watch. The R2P rationale brought to mind the back and forth I had with Steve some time back regarding the Libyan intervention, which remains a very much more questionable use of the rationale, and where he laid out a lot of quite reasonable objections to the use of R2P to justify interventions anywhere.
Helping to fight the LRA, on the other hand, seems a lot less controversial, and thanks to Rob Farley at LGM, tI�ve even found a very good essay up from Human Rights Watch�s Washington Director, Tom Malinowki, which lays out their rationale for supporting such an action (And I highly recommend reading the entire piece, as it lays out an excellent and compelling case for where and how limited projections of force can be the best option, as well as why we should be quite wary of the ways force is actually being used by the U.S. without proper or documented justification):
With respect to Kony and the LRA, we base our conclusions (unlike many of the folks who comment on such things) on extensive research in the field. For several years, our staff have traveled across the areas where the LRA operates, documenting its massacres, getting to know its patterns of behavior, interviewing former combatants who escaped its ranks and military officers with experience pursuing the group. We recognize the challenge the LRA poses and are not proposing that the US wage a �counter-guerilla campaign in the dense jungles of four central and east African states,� to combat it, as Abu Maqawama, the critic Ben quotes, suggests. Nor have we urged anything like the massive US interventions in Bosnia and Kosovo. But we do believe it is possible to address this menace.
Kony operates across a large, isolated jungle area where military operations are difficult to undertake. But he is protected by no more than 200-400 fighters. His group enjoys no popular support; it cannot hide among the sparse local population or recruit new members, except by abduction. In fact, the people who live in the three countries where the LRA currently operates desperately want outside help and their governments would welcome it (which is one reason why Abu Maqawama�s reference to the �Black Hawk Down� incident in Somalia, in which U.S. forces pursued a warlord who was protected by his clansmen in a densely populated urban setting, was particularly ridiculous).
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We believe that the addition of a small number of capable and experienced specialized forces to this regional effort � possibly provided by France, which has a military base in the Central African Republic and is a member of the International Criminal Court, with logistical and intelligence support from the U.S. � could make a difference the next time Ugandan or Congolese troops encounter the LRA leaders. We see this as a law enforcement operation, in the sense that the primary objective should be to capture Kony and others wanted by the ICC and deliver them to justice. We also recognize that lethal force is sometimes necessary in law enforcement operations when there is an imminent threat to life, and that this is a possible outcome, given the nature of this group and of the terrain where it hides. Meanwhile, we have also urged a broader strategy to protect civilians in communities at risk, rescue abducted children, and encourage defections from the LRA. To this end, we�ve suggested the deployment of more UN peacekeeping troops in the area (over 17,000 are already deployed in the Congo, but fewer than 1,000 are in LRA-affected areas.)
There remains a good case to be made that any intervention by the U.S. and even by the West more generally should be looked upon with great skepticism, and it wouldn�t surprise me to find some claiming this particular one has more to do with some mineral rights or such. Still, it appears that on the whole, this is one area where the use of U.S. military assets is actually for a pretty good cause.