Joseph Kony Manhunt: Why the US Should Not Be a Global Human Rights Police


The Obama administration has emphasized the role of Special Forces in unconventional military situations like the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Now, the Special Forces have a new challenge: hunting for Joseph Kony. According to a Huffington Post article, the 100 troops aren’t doing any fighting, and they aren’t hunting for the Rwandan warlord themselves, just providing equipment and expertise. But this operation represents a new, boots on the ground, engagement in Africa, and the discussions about how the Special Forces should be used. After remarkably little media coverage, the Kony mission is back in the news as Ugandan forces plead for more money and supplies.

There’s no question that Kony should be brought to justice; it makes sense as to why different countries would want to help, especially give the publicity raised by the Kony 2012 viral video, and each nation's desire to demonstrate commitment to human rights. But this begs the question, is this really any of our business? This same question was also raised by the recent drone attacks in Yemen and Somalia, and before that, with the intervention in Libya. However, in the case of Yemen and Somalia, the militants that the U.S. is targeting are affiliated with Al Qaeda, the central target of the War on Terror. Additionally, U.S. military involvement in these countries is limited to drone strikes, rather than troops on the ground. The Kony mission has a much more tenuous link to U.S. Security, and yet greater physical involvement. 

It could be argued that it’s every nation’s responsibility to stop war criminals like Kony, but, unfortunately, atrocities happen with tragic frequency around the world and the U.S. military simply can’t police all of them. Getting involved in some situations, only forces us to choose which human rights violations are dire enough to merit U.S. action. There are also financial considerations. In May, six months into the operation, Congress authorized another $50 million to support the effort, which has so far had no results. In a time of economic crisis, intervention in foreign countries may be a luxury we can no longer afford.

An additional concern is how casually the Special Forces seem to be deployed. President Obama did not consult Congress before committing troops to this hunt, prompting some outrage, particularly amongst Republicans. Since the military effort is not technically a war, Congress' agreement was not required, but the unilateral decision seems to indicate a cavalier attitude toward committing U.S. troops in a foreign country. While the administration has emphasized that the U.S. troops will not fight unless attacked, it is easy to see how a fight could get started in a volatile situation; if Kony decides to attack them, for example.

I, like most Americans, want to see Joseph Kony put before the International Criminal Court, but using Special Forces as international policemen is the first step down a slippery slope.