Here’s one sentence I never imagined myself writing on election night 2008: I think this guy might be too hawkish for me.
US President Barack Obama said Friday he is sending 100 combat troops to central Africa to help and advise forces battling Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army rebels accused of rape, murder and kidnapping…
“These forces will act as advisors to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA,” Obama said, but warned they would not lead the fighting themselves.
“Although the US forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces.
“They will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense. All appropriate precautions have been taken to ensure the safety of US military personnel during their deployment.”
They’re not just going to Uganda, either. Because the LRA is known to operate in several African countries, including Congo, South Sudan, and the C.A.R., our guys will be operating in those countries too. If you’re wondering why this is a matter of U.S. concern, look no further than “The LRA Disarmament and Northern Uganda Recovery Act of 2009.” It passed the Senate in March 2010 by unanimous consent and passed the House two months later by a voice vote. Bipartisan support! You can read the full text of the statute here (or, in PDF format, here). A key excerpt:
Note the references to “military” support and using “military elements” to dislodge the LRA. Betcha Congress never thought The One would take them up on that when this law was passed. A year later, after one zero-casualty American intervention in Libya on humanitarian grounds, he’s evidently hungry for more. Think this statute would have passed in this same form if it came to the floor of Congress today?
As with all nonessential U.S. military operations, the public will shrug unless and until a man in the field spills blood for it, and then there’ll be hell to pay. (Remember when Bush sent a few hundred U.S. peacekeepers to Liberia not long after the invasion of Iraq?) Meanwhile, a word to the wise: I’ve already seen some people on Twitter trying to spin this as Obama targeting “Christians,” which is pure insanity as a narrative frame if you know the history of the LRA. For one thing, Uganda’s president/dictator, a.k.a. our new ally against the LRA, is himself an Anglican. Beyond that, though, read Global Security’s entry about the group to see what kind of tactics they’re known for. Wikipedia has a serviceable summary of the organization’s cult aspects, too. They sound like a cross between the Branch Davidians and the Khmer Rouge, with a special fondness for killing families and then impressing the surviving children into service as soldiers. If Obama’s detractors want to welcome them under the banner of Christianity in order to try to score a cheap point on him, it’s no skin off my atheist nose. But it’s guaranteed to backfire as Americans learn more about our newest enemy.