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March 10, 2012 / compassioninpolitics

Is the criticism of Invisible Children’s Kony 2012 viral video fair, justified, and warranted?

To me there seem to be 4 questions with respect to the Kony 2012 question:

1. Harm & Proportionality. The harm is in the past and this is a question of justice. Its also a matter of establishing a line in the sand against using coercing child soldiers, raping child soldiers, and drugging child soldiers as weapons of war. And does he deserve justice? Emphatically yes. Do the child soldiers deserve justice? Emphatically yes. You don’t just ignore a free international criminal because they’ve decreased their criminality in the recent past.

2. Effectiveness/”White Knights” Metaphor The criticism of “white knight” is problem–is certainly something to consider. Perhaps their answer is a bit off, but not taking criminals to the criminal court is a fantastic way to normalize injustice, child soldiers, rape, and genocide. If you don’t like white knights….stop development aid for AIDS in Africa and stop the UN and stop helping homeless people because they can obviously help themselves. Benevolence can be a double-edged sword….so can everything. Stop the International Criminal Court, which members of the UN have consented to. This all boils down to a question of proportional means and would action have the support of the African community. Perhaps even the African community could be encouraged to head up action, with the US and/or UN “leading from behind.”

3. Unintended Consequences/Blowback. Who will fill the gap left by Kony? Will Kony be a martyr? Certainly important questions. Questions of international justice should generally take place beyond such questions. Its a question of creating a norm for justice around the world.

4. Do we have the resources to take action effective action? Probably yes. I don’t know how difficult it is to capture a person like Kony for the International Criminal Court, but thats a strategy question thats beyond the scope of any of the critics. Certainly our recent experiences in this area aren’t particularly good–Somalia, Iraq, and Afghanistan. And unlike Iraq and Afghanistan this doesn’t have the side issue of oil and its not such a full-scale military action. Realistically the later two simply aren’t representative in terms of intent or scale–and realistically probably means. Also, I assume the UN has some experience with this in bringing people to the Hague.

What happened to never again in the case of Hitler, Rwanda, and Darfur? I realize this isn’t genocide, but the issue of child soldiers in my mind is on par with it as an absolute scourge on humanity and Africa, in particular.

Thinking before action is a good thing. Picking an effective action is a good thing. Getting the support of local African leaders is a good thing. Minimizing the harm is a good thing. I’m not a fan of violence, but in the case of police and police action, particularly to protect and defend the innocent and to bring justice to bear is important.

Unfortunately, to get justice done–particularly in the case of international criminals does require you to break some eggs. Thats the nature of international law and justice. The alternative of doing absolutely nothing chills my blood and questions the US’s commitment to the notions of justice we stand for as a nation.

Please feel free to share your opinions, particularly if you know more about this issue than I do.

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