In a recent article in The National Interest, Ted Galen Carpenter dubbed the Obama administration’s recent decision to send 100 troops into Uganda a symptom of an “interventionist addiction.” This analysis seems a bit shortsighted. If there is room for humanitarian intervention in today’s global climate – and I believe there is – then this is the way to do it. Sending 100 military advisors to Uganda to assist in fighting the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) not only demonstrates the Obama administration’s support for the international movement toward protecting the world’s civilians, but also promotes capacity-building within central Africa at a limited cost (in terms of resources exhausted) to Americans.
It is no secret that the last 60 years of international law have been moving toward more protecting the world’s civilians. Human rights law blossomed out of the wreckage of World War II, and we now have the Responsibility to Protect doctrine that charges states with the responsibility – not only the privilege – of sovereignty. The conflict in Uganda jeopardizes the lives of Ugandan civilians in a brutal way, leaving behind ravaged villages and creating child soldiers. In addition, the conflict in Uganda adversely affects civilians in other central African countries who are amidst their own struggles. Therefore, humanitarian intervention in Uganda only reflects a larger global movement.
On the surface, the number of U.S. military personnel to enter Uganda seems minimal, considering the size and gravity of this conflict. Yet, the fact that these troops are military advisors adds legitimacy to this mission. This tactical move allows for some of the most capable military minds to share their knowledge with existing forces in central Africa. This addresses the argument that African problems should have African solutions, as it allows for central African forces to be trained and supported by U.S. advisors. This is different than a mission where U.S. troops would be moving others aside to be saviors. This is a more empowering strategy.
This strategy is also empowering for U.S. forces, as they do not have to bear the burden of having to fix the entire conflict in Uganda. When it is time to pull out of the mission, these forces hope to be leaving behind the knowledge and training needed to move forward without them. This means limited U.S. resources will be utilized.
Overall, humanitarian intervention has a place in the international legal climate. In this case, the region’s governments are inviting and supporting U.S. troops. This is what humanitarian intervention is about. This strategy is a unique approach to the conflict and, though it remains to be seen if it will be executed properly, it seems that the Obama administration is onto something.
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