I give them credit, the Invisible Children organization has done an exceptional job at bringing awareness to an issue which has long been shunned by society at large. This much could be agreed upon by even the staunchest critics of Invisible Children and its current campaign. But at what point does one’s positive and well-intended campaign become a force for something which is other than good? When does criticism (not to be confused with cynicism) become a force not of hindrance, but of focus and construction?
The leadership of Invisible Children and the Kony 2012 campaign have rightly insisted on the need to end all evil and injustice perpetrated by Kony and his LRA leadership. But—how does one accomplish this grand task? The IC have put forth a plan, and a rather ingenious one at that.
The website features a list of twenty “culture makers” and a list of twelve “policy makers” in which activists are encouraged to garner support from. The goal? After obtaining the necessary support, IC intends on forwarding military resources to Uganda with the intention of “arresting him, disabling the LRA, and bringing the child soldiers home.” Since the campaign video was released over a week ago, it has been viewed well over 78 million times on Youtube alone. But even with the phenomenal support, IC has also drawn harsh criticism among the activist community and from uneasy Ugandans who are much closer to the situation.
Rosebell Kagumire, a Ugandan native who commented on the campaign through a Youtube video, stated: “The war was more than just an evil man killing children, the war is much more complex than just one man called . . . . This video seems to say that the power lays in America, and it does not lay with my government, it does not lay with local initiatives on the ground.
That aspect is lacking and this is the problem.” Another statement made by Javie Ssozi, also from Uganda, says “Suggesting that the answer is more military action is just wrong; have they thought of the consequences? Making Kony ‘famous’ could make him stronger. Arguing for more US troops could make him scared and make him abduct more children, or go on the offensive.”
It is here that we arrive at the distinction between good intentions and unintended consequences. Those who deem these “unintended consequences” as inconsequential to the greater goals of the movement—have also suggested that critics should not be critical, but should instead be pleased that so many around the globe are pursuing such a just and moral cause. They argue that the growth shift in popular activism is alone enough to justify the actions of the movement (in regards to any imperfections there might be). However, this should not be so. Such assertions are often the product of a strong emotional appeal which stirs immediate and impulsive action, which also, effectively discourages careful and learned rationalization. However, There appears to be a problem with activism in general: more often than not, there exists an abundance of heartfelt conviction and determination, but in that, rests little logical consideration to how the problem might best be solved—with these secondary conditions in mind.
There is also considerable discrepancy between facts and narrative implied by the Kony 2012 campaign and the actual state of affairs which Uganda currently maintains. As stated by Rosebell Kagumire: "Right now, Joseph Kony is not in Uganda. The situation in the video was five or six years ago. The situation has tremendously improved in Northern Uganda—people sleep at home, and . . . children are going to school, and it's about post-conflict recovery right now, and we don't see issues of—what needs to be done—especially when he puts Uganda at the center of this conflict."
What is truly ironic about this movement is its intent to “end a war” by method of direct military intervention. Do they really suppose that there will be no unintended consequences from this action? And of the child soldiers being used to oppose his capture and arrest—there is a significant chance that escalating force would further put these child soldiers in greater harm.
By affirming military force as the solution, It is likely that the child soldiers would tragically be found in the crosshairs of Invisible Children’s own cause. In this event, it should be noted (if it were to occur) that the outcome may not justify the means as it were intended. In this scenario and in many examples past, history would indicate that many well-intended people have pushed thoughtful agendas, only to discover in hindsight, that the outcome was worse—than if these individuals had simply maintained things as they were.
Consider the actions and results of the war in Iraq and even the rise of Marxian-Communism. Both of these projects began as seemingly selfless and morally good endeavors, but results would demonstrate that these events did not progress as expected. The intentions of direct intervention in Iraq were similar to that of the Kony 2012 campaign—that is, the removal of an evil person from power, so that the innocent can live free from harm and oppression. Ironically though, the resulting instability in Iraq has been thoroughly worse than the murder and tyranny which existed under Saddam Hussein.
Such is the danger that one risks by promoting an agenda purely based on good intentions. Uganda is in a state of rebuilding, and like Iraq, military intervention might deconstruct the rebuilding process, and create a larger conflict than what currently exists.
Kony 2012 activists would do well to consider the concerns of their critics. In open-minded examination, both activists and critics may very well find themselves on the same side of the issue. Many, if not most of the critics wish to achieve the same goal—they have simply examined these goals while accounting for the unintended consequences which may result.