How to Get the World to Care About You in 1 Easy Step
Well, I’m back. I thought about waiting until after this Kony 2012 fiasco fizzled out, but instead I find myself with so many thoughts about it that I – forgive me world – feel obligated to toss my own $.02 into the fountain of cynical banter.
In case you haven’t seen it yet (and with over 75 million views on YouTube at this point, that’s unlikely), Kony 2012 is an emotional appeal from Invisible Children that calls on young people in America to advocate for the capture of war criminal Joseph Kony.
The film hints strongly that the best solution for capturing Kony – a scum of the earth villain infamous for kidnapping children to use as soldiers and sex slaves – is to encourage the US government to continue sending troops to help the Ugandan army find him.
Ugh Invisible Children. What are you thinking?
As every other human rights blogger has already pointed out, the Kony issue is complex. His Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) now terrorizes not Uganda, but South Sudan and DR Congo. In the meantime, as Kony 2012 admits, we have already sent troops to Uganda to help find Kony – with motives not as pure as our hipster activist friends want us to believe.
Kony 2012 tearfully shows Obama’s 2011 memo announcing his plan to send those troops; but that decision came roughly 14 years after the LRA first began their terrible marches through the country. Why the sudden change now in our foreign policy, after over a decade?
For that answer, let’s first look at Somalia. From 2009-201o, Obama discussed sending troops to Somalia to fight terrorism; but it wasn’t until 2011 that he and Congress went through with it to help African forces defeat Al-Shabab militants. The decision came only a few months after Somalia opened up its borders for oil exploration; and it ignored worse terrorism strongholds like Pakistan. As of this past February, studies have placed Somalia in the top 20 oil-yielding countries.
And Uganda? In 2010, Uganda announced that they too had struck black gold and expected to earn $2 billion a year beginning in 2015, making them a midsize producer of oil. Talk of foreign investment began immediately, and a little over a year later, Obama began a plan for sending in troops.
Finally, we journey out of Africa to a little country called North Korea.
For the last few decades, dictator Kim Jong-Il has brainwashed his people while watching them starve to death en masse. Estimates range anywhere from 900,000 to 3.5 million people dead from famine-related illness. North Korea regularly provokes our allies to the south while up until recently threatening to become a nuclear power.
What’s worse, refugees attempting to flee North Korea risk execution within the country’s network of concentration camps. Survivors who have escaped North Korea, along with witnesses inside it, testify to torture, rape, brutal executions, and forced abortions within these camps.
Successful escapees to China run the risk of being returned at penalty of death, having their families arrested or executed as punishment, or getting sold into a growing sex trade.
I don’t say all of that to depress you – although I know it might. I say it because we cannot underestimate how horrible it is to be in North Korea. Why, after we so actively supported conflict in that region decades ago, do we not send our troops to liberate the malnourished North Korean prison orphans? Could it simply be their lack of natural resources? If they had oil, would their children matter, too?
And what would these young people, so galvanized by Invisible Children’s efforts, think if they saw the horrors that occur every day all over the world? Would they want to send troops everywhere? Are we creating a generation of war-happy “humanitarians?” Hasn’t that strategy failed for us time and again? Aren’t there other ways to help without demanding Congress and the president put more people in harm’s way?
It seems to me that this complex situation with Kony and the LRA needs complex solutions, and that organizations on the ground in Uganda, DR Congo, South Sudan, and Central African Republic probably know more than we do. If we care we should listen, learn as much as we can, and then help those people who are already working practically for change. Kony 2012 is too emotionally manipulative and short to allow for that kind of compassion.
To be clear, I don’t actually wish North Korea had oil. At this point, I wouldn’t wish that on anybody. While I’d love for its people to be liberated allies, we’d have to fight impoverished victims of brainwashing who wouldn’t see us as liberators. I do wish we could have an honest discussion about energy and how it relates to human rights.
Or, rather, how it doesn’t.