Kony 2012 and Afghanistan


I found last week’s hoopla surrounding the Kony 2012 video annoying and disturbing.  Designed to stir souls to a noble cause, the video is worrisome because it is classic agitprop.  It has ignited among its viewers a strong emotional firestorm that bypasses reason.  (On a sadder note, it seems the global explosion of attention and backlash were too much for the maker of the video.)

Everyone agrees that Kony is a bad man, but I doubt everyone agrees on a real solution.  Neither Facebook posts nor monetary contributions stop an evil man like this.  UN blue helmets don’t do much good either; just ask the residents of Srebenica.  It would take a concerted effort by a competent, modern military force to uproot that kind of evil.  Funny though, when that sort of operation becomes reality, as with the Iraq War, people complain about it.  If only text donations were more widespread back then, maybe Saddam Hussein could have been effaced by the collective wireless bills of the Free World.  And what about the fresher atrocities of Kim Jong Il?  By the time of his death last December, there was no 80 million+ hits YouTube video for his crimes.

For all the talk of “capturing” Kony, I would not be surprised if his capture attempt looked and ended up like last year’s righteous and successfully culminated mission against Osama Bin Laden.

Just a day or two after the Kony 2012 media explosion came the sensational storm of the Afghanistan massacre.  But instead of passion to spark a new war, this story reinforced among the public a desire to end an old one.  I instinctively resist the popular sentiment to pull out that comes from seeing casualties and bloodshed.  When I studied “peace and security” as an international relations major, I discovered the great extent of thought that informs decision-making on questions of peace and war.  Such deadly serious business must not be decided by the fickle whims of the public, but ought to rest in the hands of sober-minded policymakers.  Whether we actually have such trustworthy policymakers in power is another story altogether.

The power to make war is a necessary and classic function of government that is not going away anytime soon.  Indeed, Robert Kagan’s latest book argues specifically for America’s need to maintain a prominent profile in the world’s affairs.  What is ultimately entailed in Afghanistan is hard for me to say, but mere public opinion shouldn’t determine whether we send SEALs to get Kony or send our troops in Afghanistan packing.  Our national security and our troops’ sacrifice are too important for that.

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About Lewis W
I earned an M.A. in Christian apologetics at Biola University, and occasionally write on ethics, truth, science and politics.

6 Responses to Kony 2012 and Afghanistan

  1. Hey, great post! There is a lot to be said for a writer who can keep a clear head in the midst of what you rightly called an ’emotional firestorm.’ That said, your post got me to thinking. If “mere public opinion shouldn’t determine whether we send SEALs to get Kony or send our troops in Afghanistan packing,” then what should? Remember, the power to authorize war is vested in the Congress, the branch of government most susceptible to public opinion.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts.

    • Thanks for your comment!

      Congress hardly represents the undistilled will of the people. Its members are beholden to a variety of considerations that temper their words and actions. In fact, that is why so many are displeased with Congress.

      As for who decides war and peace, let it be the Commander-in-Chief and his officers. Since America’s earliest days, Congress has shared the prerogative of starting a conflict with the President. Adams and Jefferson dispatched forces in the Quasi-War and Tripolitan expeditions.

      With the principle of fidelity to task, the President shouldn’t let external distractions get in the way. He already has plenty of generals and cabinet advisors to inform him. Talking heads and protester puppeteers tend to be redundant.

      • I think we are going to have to agree to disagree on that issue. It seems to me that war is easier to avoid when the assent of hundreds of men and women are required for its declaration. Enabling one man to authorize military action, thereby putting the lives and treasure of millions at risk, seems imprudent.

      • This is a fruitful discussion; allow me to extend it a bit. The end in mind is not such that “war is easier to avoid,” but that it is fought precisely when appropriate. In the post, I suggest that folks like strategists, generals, and foreign policy analysts should have more sway than the general public. You have accounted for the risk to blood and treasure from an unnecessary war, but we must also account for the risk from avoiding a war that should have been fought.

      • Again, I must respectfully disagree. I am taking for granted in my argument that we are only discussing the execution of defensive wars. If you are of the opinion that offensive wars may be justified, then I am afraid we will never agree. That being said, let us consider the defensive war. In my mind, there are two broad categories of defensive military action. The first is the direct response to an invasion or attack, and the second is what we might call a preemptive strike. In the case of the former, there is very little risk that the American people would avoid a war that ‘should have been fought.’ We are not, after all, liable to lay down our arms in the face of an invading enemy. Therefore, when referring to these wars which should have been fought, I must assume that you are referring to the preemptive strike. The problem that I have with such military action is as follows. In considering preemptive war, we are considering vast military action on the premise that a certain state or nation may act against us at some point in the uncertain future. This is akin to precrime, though on a much larger scale. If the threat is truly imminent, I believe that it would be easy to convince the majority of Congressmen required to declare war that defensive action is necessary. If we bypass this method, then we leave a very important decision in the hands of only a few, who, no matter how prudent, may have a political axe to grind.

  2. Once again, your thoughtful comments vindicate public debate and merit a response. Let this be my final one here, since it seems we could go on a long time. You may even have the last word.

    For an appropriate or “necessary” war, I do not accept the offensive/defensive paradigm, first because it relies on an idealized world where citizens truly understand external threats. More acutely in Europe, but also some in the U.S., we have been sheltered by time and distance from ravages that have defined most of human existence. The success of the American order has caused us to take peace for granted. And there has been a weakening of cultural character over the past 50 years such that, out of cowardice or misinformed notions about human nature, many of us would be “liable to lay down our arms in the face of an invading enemy.”

    Second, in a world of genuine asymmetrical threats, we need vigilance against more than boots on the ground; an unconventional attack like an EMP pulse could bring us to our knees. The precrime analogy is intriguing but not valid in my opinion, since there is no overarching state to police the world community of nations; certainly not the UN or a coalition of the willing and able. Many states have zero control of what happens in their own borders. In a harsh world, we are forced to take into account prospects of survival rather than conform to untenable ideals.

    My critique is not as much about the organization of government’s war powers as it is about how a culture treats war, and views threats as they actually are.

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