The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Obama: Chasing the Bad Guys Through The African Bush

President Obama said Friday he would send armed advisers – about 100 – to central Africa to help hunt down one of the world’s genuine bad guys – Joseph Kony, head of a murdering, kidnapping, torturing and raping group of thugs who call themselves the Lord’s Resistance Army. Obama seems to have a thing for hunting down bad guys: first Osama bin Laden, then Anwar al-Awlaki, with a host of less infamous enemies in between. But a question now presents itself: Will Obama involve Americans in more conflicts in more countries and than his predecessor, renowned interventionist George W. Bush?

As the Washington Post reported today:

With limited U.S. assistance, Obama wrote [in a letter to House Speaker John A. Boehner], “regional military efforts have thus far been unsuccessful in removing LRA leader Joseph Kony or his top commanders from the battlefield.” Therefore, he said, “I have authorized a small number of combat-equipped U.S. forces to deploy to central Africa” to help regional forces achieve that goal.

An “initial team of U.S. military personnel with appropriate combat equipment deployed to Uganda” on Wednesday, and additional forces are to be sent during the next month, Obama said. Those forces will include “a second combat-equipped team and associated headquarters, communications and logistics personnel,” he said.

George W. Bush might have begun lengthy wars in Afghanistan and Iraq but Obama has put American troops in Libya’s airspace and now on the ground in central Africa, not to mention escalating drone warfare against targets in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. This is something of an about-face for Obama, who as a senator and presidential candidate signaled an intention to divert America from its past interventionist policies.

This is, however, more than a story about the increasingly close strategies Presidents Bush and Obama have used in the Lord Voldemort War (formerly the global war on terror, now the group of kinetic military actions against Those Who Cannot Be Named).

It is a story about the rise of US involvement in Africa.  Whether from humanitarian motives (and there are some terrible things happening in Africa), US racial politics (why should we pay less attention to genocides and conflicts involving blacks rather than whites), or economic ones (Africa has a lot of raw materials), US interest in and commitment to Africa is on the rise.

This is yet another point of similarity between the Bush and Obama administrations.  Both presidents have steadily been raising America’s Africa involvement in a variety of fields.  The establishment of a Pentagon command for Africa (Africom) will make missions like this one easier to organize and represents a significant upgrade in terms of US focus on the continent.

The rise of US interest in Africa is a big and important story which I hope to follow on the blog; in the meantime, let’s hope the LRA is killed, captured or scattered ASAP.  These are seriously bad actors, and the sooner they are out of business, the better for all concerned.

Published on October 15, 2011 12:34 pm
  • http://pubsecrets.wordpress.com Phineas

    Something else to note: Uganda has contributed about 5,000 troops to fight al-Shabaab in Somalia, the largest of the African contingents sent there. Helping Uganda take out the LRA (as you say, these guys are serious bad guys) is a good way to repay the favor and build our influence in the region.

  • ePeter

    Could it be that someone has whispered into Obama’s ear that we are several steps behind the Chinese in staking claims in the resource-rich ‘dark continent’? Taking the moral high road on safari against widely acknowledged bad guys could be a good American-style bid for influence in the land of his father.

  • Luke Lea

    Does the President have the legal authority to order something like this? He almost certainly doesn’t have the Constitutional authority. I would like Mead’s thoughts.

  • http://realbubbler.blogspot.com/ femi

    I think he’s worse than bush to be honest..i had hope when he got elected that america would move in a better direction and stop these cold war tactics, close down guantanemo, and even reform the banking system..only for him to win the nobel peace prize..apparently, obama is a huge fan of conquering the world with military bases just like bush was

  • Externality

    How long until Colin Powell’s “Pottery Barn rule” is invoked to tell the American people that since ‘we’ took part in the fighting, ‘we’ are permanently obligated to provide Uganda with money, reconstruction assistance, and other aid? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pottery_Barn_rule

    Or until Americans are told that ‘we’ must accept millions of Ugandan refugees displaced by ‘our decision’ to go to war there? Uganda has the world’s second highest birth rate (6.69 children/woman), a population growing by 3.58% per year, and an HIV-prevalence rate of 6.5%. What better way for our leaders to assuage their consciences than to bring part of Uganda’s exploding but sick population here to compete with Americans for a rapidly shrinking pool of jobs and social services?

  • Luke Lea

    War Nerd’s faux-sociopathic take on the Lord’s Resistance Army rom back in 2002:

    “planet. …
    There was another, way crazier and more fun: Joseph Kony, leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Little Joseph came from a very devout Christian family: his aunt Alice founded the LRA and passed it on to him when she died. Aunt Alice started some of the great traditions of the LRA, like telling your troops that if they just wore her special amulets, bullets won’t hurt them. Aunt Alice had everybody in the LRA believing God hisself would be their kevlar vest. This turned out to be untrue, but there was a great escape clause: by the time the chumps found out the amulets didn’t work as advertised, they were DEAD! Now that’s the way to run a complaint department” Thousands of satisfied customers and dissatisfied but uncomplaining corpses. …
    People won’t see this — won’t see how simple and practical the African style of warfare really is. The LRA is at war with the Ugandan Army, but it’s war Central-Africa style. We’re not talking Gettysburg or Verdun here. The idea isn’t to have big battles but to sneak up on an enemy village and kill all the civilians, take their livestock and steal their stuff.

    Mr. Anon comments: “It takes a child to raze a village.”
    Reporters like to call this “insane,” which is crap. Which would you rather do, get sent off to another continent to fight heavily-armed opponents (war Western-style) or kill the neighbors who wake you every damn morning with their stupid lawnmower (war African-style)? Especially if you can see they’ve got a nice DVD player in there? Personally, I’d much rather kill the neighbors and steal their stuff. And if they’ve got a daughter just hitting puberty — well, that’s just gravy.”

    (Hat tip, he who shall not be named.)

  • Walter Sobchak

    Prov 26:17 He who meddles in a quarrel not his own is like one who takes a passing dog by the ears.

    In the 60s this was used by as a caption to a picture of Lyndon Johnson pulling one of his dogs up by its ears.