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McCain has a point, as interventions to hunt down the LRA, like the one led by the Pentagon in 2008, have backfired horribly. Kony put children on the front lines; they wound up as casualties while he escaped unscathed. (Notably, however, McCain wants an intervention in Syria, a country backed by Russia, China, and Iran, where there is a much greater likelihood of seeing the United States drawn into a larger shooting war than there is in Central Africa.) A U.S. military offensive, even for a benign-sounding goal like "the arrest of Joseph Kony so that he can be tried by the International Criminal Court," is redundant. There are already four national militaries engaging Kony's forces. And there is no shortage of well-armed governments in the region that can lend a hand if apprehending Kony is truly an important international goal.
The wild success of the KONY 2012 blitz doesn't just obscure the complexity on the ground in Central Africa. The campaign also seeks to make it untenable for viewers and policymakers alike to reject a false narrative about bipartisan support for an international intervention against a decades-old rural insurgency half a world away.
Tate Watkins is a freelance writer based in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and a one-time Reason intern.