New video about the Central African Republic, the conflict there, and some thoughts on why we struggle to pay attention to complex international news stories. And Kony 2012.
Apologies for my stunned silence in the face of the Kony 2012 movement and the internet’s explosion of power. I’ve never felt like the whole internet has simultaneously pushed down the same keys at the same time. Not even the response to SOPA made me feel this level of solidarity.
The LRA has been around, being evil, and making the world suck more since I was in college, and that’s when I first tried to raise awareness for stopping them…more than ten years ago. Sometimes it feels like there are so many terrible things in the world, it’s impossible to figure out what to focus on. But the LRA is getting that focus now. And I hope we can maintain it.
Having seen the video that Invisible Children put together for this cause, I am floored. It is a masterpiece and the reaction to it has been exactly as strong as it should be…which is to say, EXTREMELY STRONG.
However, my worry is that we will soon feel about the LRA the way we feel about Syria today. John’s video recounts tremendous crimes against humanity that continue in Syria right now, and yet the mot common comment is “KONY 2012.” I would like to encourage us all to understand that international relations are not conducted on the time scale of the internet.
If we look back in three months and think “What happened with that Kony thing?” we will have failed. Honestly, it was hard for John not to feel that way about Syria as he scrolled through the video comments today. Like he put a lot of work into a video that no one cared about because it wasn’t the soup of the day.
Of course, it’s difficult to compare what the government of Syria does to what the LRA does, since the LRA is so deeply evil. And the message that Invisible Children is bringing to us is extremely powerful and we have to capitalize on that excitement in every way we can.
The 2012 deadline seems dangerously arbitrary, though, I’m sure, very motivational. I apologize for my tempered enthusiasm, I’ve wanted this guy (dead or alive) for over a decade, so I’m used to it not happening. But we’ve never had energy like this surrounding the cause before either. We must do whatever we can to make it happen, but this is a marathon, not a sprint.
Let’s run it together.
Let me first underscore that, like Hank, I have publicly and privately advocated for the destruction of the LRA for a long time, both in terms of what I talk about and in terms of where I give money. For the record, I have not donated directly to Invisible Children because organizations like Charity Navigator have raised important and so far as I know unanswered questions about IC’s work and their transparency (see this tumblr post for more links, although some of them are dubiously reported), but I greatly admire both their mission and the clarity with which they are able to articulate it.
Regardless, I think it is tremendously important to arrest Joseph Kony and end the terror he has brought to Uganda, Sudan, the DRC, and the CAR. It’s something we can all agree upon, which makes it easy to rally around, and at least at first glance, it lacks the complexity and ambiguity of, say, trying to figure out whether to intervene in Syria.
But in fact, the business of killing and/or capturing Kony and dismantling the LRA is not so simple. For one thing, a US-backed mission to destroy the LRA failed in 2009, leading to retaliatory mass murder. Furthermore, members of the American military are in Uganda right now working with the Ugandan armed forces to dismantle the LRA. Congress has also acted (albeit belatedly) to offer better intelligence to governments where the LRA is active. European governments have been similarly supportive.
In short, it’s unfair to say that Kony isn’t famous, at least to diplomats and governments. It’s just that—like other famous evil people—he is not an easy person to kill or capture. The truth resists simplicity, whether we’re talking about Uganda or Syria or Egypt or American Presidential nominating contests.
To dismantle the LRA, we need to maintain sustained pressure on political leaders here and abroad, which is the kind of work that as Hank points out requires continued focus and commitment.
Here’s to running these marathons together.