Uganda? Really?

I have an early appointment, and don’t have time to say much – a longer post on Occupy Wall Street will have to wait – but I have to say something about President Obama’s announcement that he is sending 100 combat troops to Uganda to help capture¬†or kill Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)¬†(and the still more shocking disclosure that there are already “some” US troops there).

This action has been endorsed by some people I respect, notably Nick Kristof and Representative James McGovern. I think the reasoning is the same in both cases. Innocent people are being killed by the LRA, and they are happy to see our country acting to protect those people.

My objection is simple. I don’t think the US military ever ends up improving things for civilian populations. We intervened in Haiti and reduced that country to near chaos (only made worse by the earthquake); we intervened in Somalia with similar results (we got rid of the Islamic Courts, which were keeping things stable, on the ground that they were Islamists – instead, we got a haven for piracy and now famine). We intervened in Libya, supposedly to protect civilians, and ended up flying reconnaissance as those we supported destroyed the city of Sirte, block by block.

There’s a lot more to be said. For example, there are places in Africa (Congo, Darfur, Zimbabwe) or nearby (Bahrain) where things are a lot worse than in Uganda. But I don’t want to give the impression that I think we should send troops to those countries, either. I could also point out the strange coincidence that oil has been discovered in Uganda, and to growing Chinese influence in the region. And I could criticize the growing extent to which the Obama foreign policy consists of finding particular individuals to assassinate. But as I said, I only have a litte time this morning, so I will leave those topics for later.

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