In many ways the congressman is right. Finding, capturing, or killing Joseph Kony and other senior leaders of the LRA is not explicitly in the United States’ national interest, narrowly defined. A case might be made that a more stable Central Africa would allow for the easier and more transparent extraction of valuable minerals and other resources, potentially enriching local populations as well as the global economy. One could also argue that the LRA’s presence exacerbates the problems of a region where genocide and civil war – in Darfur, South Sudan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – have consistently drawn the attention of US officials and American civil society, largely for humanitarian reasons.
The expansion of democracy is another consideration. None of the countries plagued by the LRA are considered electoral democracies in Freedom in the World, Freedom House’s annual assessment of political rights and civil liberties. Illegal armed groups both flourish in and perpetuate the absence of effective governance, and their removal is a prerequisite for democratic development.
The best justification for sending US troops to the region, however, may lie in the congressman’s argument. While it is true that there are a lot of unpleasant people in the world, one would be hard pressed to find any who are more unpleasant than Joseph Kony and can be “dethroned” as easily. Sending military advisers to Central Africa is a small price to pay for ending the career of one of the most horrific mass murderers of the past 20 years.