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M A Y 2 0 1 2 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L
The Power of Video
Last fall, the U.S. Africa Command
) de
ployed about
100 military advisers to Kampala to as-
sist local forces working to defeat
Joseph Kony, a brutal Ugandan war-
lord who heads the Lord’s Resistance
Army. Since 1987, Kony and his forces
have forcibly recruited between 60,000
and 100,000 child soldiers, killed or
maimed thousands of people, and dis-
placed around two million people
throughout Central Africa. The Inter-
national Criminal Court has sought his
arrest for crimes against humanity, and
the LRA is on the State Department’s
list of terrorist organizations.
The Obama administration author-
ized the deployment of the advisers
pursuant to the 2010 Lord’s Resistance
Army Disarmament and Northern
Uganda Recovery Act. The goal is to
support the governments of Uganda,
the Central African Republic, the
Democratic Republic of the Congo
and South Sudan, as well as the African
Union and United Nations, in coun-
tering the threat the LRA poses to the
entire region.
The strategy has four main objec-
tives: increased protection of civilians;
the apprehension or removal of Kony
and senior LRA commanders from the
battlefield; promotion of defections
and support of the disarmament, de-
mobilization and reintegration of re-
maining fighters; and provision of con-
tinued humanitarian relief to affected
communities. The military component
is part of a comprehensive effort in-
volving U.S. embassies in the affected
countries, U.S. Agency for Interna-
tional Development programs and
contributions from nongovernmental
Despite this intensified interna-
tional campaign to bring Kony to jus-
tice, the issue largely stayed off the
world’s radar screen until March. (The
fact that the U.S. contingent is operat-
ing strictly in an advisory capacity, not
as combat troops, is presumably the
main reason their role has caused no
real controversy here.)
Then Invisible Children, Inc.
), a
founded in 2005, released a 30-minute
documentary, “Kony 2012”
). In
it, director Jason
Russell, one of Invisible Children’s co-
founders, talks to his young son, Gavin,
about his work, and invites supporters
to make Kony “famous” so that he can
be brought to justice.
The video quickly went viral. As of
late March, it had been viewed 85 mil-
lion times on YouTube (
), and nearly 17 million
times on Vimeo (
), and has
spread across social media networks
with amazing speed.
t seems to me that the United States doesn’t have to beat on its chest. It
doesn’t need to strut. It can afford some humility, and it can afford to let
others sort of step forward because everybody knows who’s got all the as-
sets at the end of the day.
And I believe Madeleine Albright was absolutely right: We are the indis-
pensable nation. There is no international problem that can be addressed
or solved without the engagement and the leadership of the United States.
And everybody in the world knows that. It’s just a fact of life. So I think
sometimes we could conduct ourselves with a little more humility.
— Former Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, in his March 15
accepting the 2012 Elliott Richardson Prize for Excellence
in Public Service from the National Academy of Public Administration