Operation Actual Justice

NEW YORK – Barack Obama has promised to send a group of 100 armed United States military personnel to Uganda – a high-powered posse to help bring to heel (and to justice) the notorious war criminal Joseph Kony, the leader of a brutal rebel group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army. “These forces will act as advisers to partner forces that have the goal of removing from the battlefield Joseph Kony and other senior leadership of the LRA,” Obama wrote in a letter submitted to the leadership of the US congress.

Obama’s foreign policy is often criticized for being reactive or improvisational. But this latest intervention exemplifies the doctrine that he set out in his Nobel acceptance speech in 2009. “Those regimes that break the rules must be held accountable,” and so should their leaders, who are “sworn to protect and defend.” Force might well be necessary to implement the doctrine, because “the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions that brought stability to a post-World War II world.”

Obama can count on at least some bipartisan support at home for the initiative against Kony: a bill requiring US action against the LRA was signed into law in May 2010, with support from Democrats and Republicans in both houses of Congress.

The logic of pursuing Kony closely resembles that of the recent NATO-led intervention in Libya. In that case, operating under a United Nations Security Council resolution, and with broader support, including from the Arab League, the United States and its allies intervened for the ostensible humanitarian goal of preventing the mass killing of civilians at the hands of forces loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi.