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June 11, 2003

Widening The Scope

This caught my ear the other day while listening to NPR on the commute to work the other day. Families in northern Uganda are sending their children away at night to sleep alone on the city streets of Kitgum and Gulu. It's the only way they can ensure that they aren't kidnapped by the Lord's Resistance Army, who force the boys to fight for them and turn the girls into sex slaves.

According to Reuters, more than 9000 people are traveling from their homes each night to sleep wherever they find a spot to lay down in the cities. Children as young as 4 make the trip each night, traveling on foot up to 5 miles each way in order to sleep in safety.

The Lord's Resistance Army is supported an encouraged by the Islamist government in Sudan, a country listed by the State department as a supporter of international terrorism, and a country that rivals Saudi Arabia in its all talk/no action approach to the war on terrorism.

Uganda on the other hand is cited as a model for African development in democracy and the fight against HIV/AIDS. The president of that country met today with George Bush, who praised him for his support in the war on terrorism, yet apparently did not offer any U.S. aid or support for Uganda in its struggle with an Islamist supported movement.

Yet why not? The American experience in Afghanistan proved that a combination of a small number of special forces and air support in conjunction with native ground forces is a lethal combination. The Lord's Resistance Army is demonstrably as vicious as the Taliban, supported by a regime with strong ties to Islamic terrorism, and would likely put up even less of a struggle than did the Taliban once they were faced with a US supported force. Since there is already a functioning civil government in Uganda, we would not even face the vacuum of authority problems that have cropped up in areas of Afghanistan and Iraq, while simultaneously demonstrating that the American war on terrorism is not limited to those of Arab descent, or even to Islam. The LRA, though supported by Islamists, is an ostensibly Christian movement.

If relieving the suffering of the Iraqi people is in hindsight a valid reason for the American invasion of that country, and I believe that it is (And did before the war. WMDs were always a side issue for me.) then those reasons are just as valid for the people of northern Uganda. No, we can't solve all of the world's problems at once, but it's not like clearing terrorists out of Uganda would take even as much effort as we put into Afghanistan, and it would demonstrate that America cares as much about stability in Africa as it does anywhere else.

Terrorists thrive in failed states, and Africa is full of states on the edge of failure. It will be simpler and cheaper now to support the African civilian and democratic nations than it will be to make war on them ten or twenty years in the future. Chasing the Islamists out of the Middle East, only to find them popping up in sub-Saharan Africa will come as rude shock, one we can prevent from occurring in the future with only a little effort in the present.

A little effort, yet one that to all appearances is not being made.

Posted by Bigwig at June 11, 2003 11:41 PM | TrackBack
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