A lot of Republican bloggers in the US are rolling their eyes up in mockery at the report that President Obama plans to send in US troops to fight the so called “Lord’s Resistance army” in Uganda.
A typical response is this, from the National Review Blog The Corner:
This is even crazier than getting involved in Libya â€” at least Gaddafi had attacked us years ago and we still had an emotional reason to want to get the SOB, even if realpolitik argued against it. But what possible interest do we have in the savagery of the Lordâ€™s Resistance Army, the demented killers our men are supposed to help the local governments defeat? This is a mission thatâ€™s not worth risking a single American soldier so much as twisting his ankle.
Thereby showing the cluelessness of the American right.
Actually, I’m pleased that he plans to do so.
This is about as nasty a bunch of terrorists as one can find. True, the 30 thousand reported killed by them is small next to the estimated 3 million killed by warlords and politically inspired massacres in the various wars in Central Africa (wars that are rarely reported or protested in the west).
But the level of their violence makes them the worst of the worse. From GlobalSecurity.org:
In particular, the LRA abducted numerous children and, at clandestine bases, terrorized them into virtual slavery as guards, concubines, and soldiers. In addition to being beaten, raped, and forced to march until exhausted, abducted children were forced to participate in the killing of other children who had attempted to escape. Amnesty International reported that without child abductions, the LRA would have few combatants.
And to make things worse, according to this website, they are expanding their reach into nearby countries.
As the years progressed, the LRA lessened their attacks in Uganda and began to attack other regions. They spread to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, and the Central African Republic (CAR). The LRA continued to move between these 3 regions and evaded capture despite the efforts made by joint military operations of the countries.
In other words, there are a lot of folks after these terrorists, but they could use some help in logistics and intelligence. Sending in American experts could be the “tipping point” to stop them, and maybe even be the tipping point to help local governments to stop the horrendous wars in that area of Africa.
What Americans need to realize is that President Obama is not sending in the infantry, but specialists to track and identify their actions. The fighting will be done by local troops.
Uganda has a lot of problems, but they have shown a willingness to send troops into places like Somalia to do some very dangerous peacekeeping. Nor are these clueless men with guns, but soldiers who are good enough to be hired as private contractors in Iraq and funded by the European Union to train government soldiers for the Somali government. Need a peacekeeper? Try Uganda’s military. They are cheap and dependable.
What they can’t do is what the US can do: fancy technological stuff.BBC report here.
The force will use hi-tech equipment to assist in what analysts say is a “kill or capture” policy, the BBC’s Marcus George in Washington reports
That is the same way that the US is helping us here in the Philippines to help the Armed Forces of the Philippines find and defeat the Abus and other terrorist offshoots of the MILF (who are fighting for their own land and according to Wikileaks have cooperated with the US and AFP to catch these guys, whose terror tactics against civilians often kill fellow Muslims and have destabilized the peace process).
Lots of new techniques to find the bad guys were used in Afghanistan and Iraq: but in Afghanistan, it is easier to send in a drone and kill them. In the Philippines, they trace and find them, and then send in the local troops to find and catch them. (Local law forbids Americans from firing weapons, although there are rumors by human rights groups that in a few cases that they have pulled out guns to protect themselves).
So I am happy.
Not only might you get rid of the bad guys, but the presence of US troops sends a message to some of the other nasty groups causing trouble and death in that sad area: Now you not only might have to worry about the Mr.Milquetoast Blue Helmet UN peacekeepers, but you will find now that you are facing government troops who will be trained to fight, and who have the scary USA behind their actions.
A similar “send in the Marines” moment in 2003 helped the Nigerian peacekeepers restore peace in Liberia, enabling Mrs. Johnson-Sirleaf to help establish peace, win election as the new president, and (of course) win the Nobel Peace Prize last week.
So what’s not to like?
In the poisoned political atmosphere of the USA, lots.
President Obama didn’t explain why this was being done, so that the American people could decide if they agreed.
To make things worse, he didn’t bother to ask the US Congress. Even Senator McCain, who supports the action, thinks this was a mistake.
One reason the President is in trouble in the public opinion polls in the US is for his arrogance and failure to be willing to compromise in his policies. True, in his first two years, when his own party was in charge of Congress, he could get away with pushing through his programs, but the losses of the midterm election hinted a readjustment in bipartisanship was needed, a lesson that Obama was unwilling to concede.
So his sudden decision to send troops to Uganda may risk a similar political problem, which is ironic since the “send in the army to save the world” Neocons tend to be Republican.
His lack of playing the political game and asking Congress, who control the purse strings, was not wise, and may result in some cynical nasty questions.
What kind of nasty questions?
well, I figure that there are three types of criticism we should expect to read in the near future.
One: It wasn’t to help an ally.( After all, Uganda has sent troops to Somalia). It is about oil.
One just waits for the left wing press to start questioning if America is planning to steal something from Uganda (oil, mineral wealth). We might also want conspiracy theorists to decide that the US is making all these country stooges so the US can steal all their oil, implying that Africa peacekeepers are merely stooges fronting for America so the Americans can steal Africa’s wealth.
Yes, the good old “blood for oil” argument. (None of the left seems to know about Alberta Canada and North Dakota’s oil wealth, except to protest extracting it, but that’s another issue altogether).
Two: Obama is a secret Muslim and wants to be able to to say we fight Christianist terrorists too. This is similar to criticisms we read against President Bush putting North Korea in the “axis of evil” list, so that the Muslims won’t think they are being targeted.
No, the LRA is about as Christian as the Zeta drug Lords of Mexico; similarly, although there are some extremist preachers being funded by Middle Eastern charities, even these groups don’t claim the pirates of Somalia and heroin gangs of Afghanistan belong to Islam.
The LRA is “Christianist” in their propaganda, but not in it’s actions: and it’s main opposition has been the Catholic and Anglican churches in Uganda.
And the third reason? Election year is coming.
Can you say “Wag the Dog”?Â
But again, this ignores that, contrary to the simplistic left wing analysis of the war on terror, that Obama seems to have read the same security reports as Bush, and made similar decisions. There are no easy answers, but there are small things that can be done to help others in their fight against the leaders of a group that has caused so much terror.
So thank you, President Obama, for helping Africa.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She blogs about human rights at Makaipablog.