The recent explosion online of Invisible Children's 'Kony 2012' video has brought to the fore the possibilities of social networking in changing the political landscape. The video links itself with the use of social networking in triggering the uprisings of the recent Arab spring and its ongoing use in Syria. But the American NGO has also come under much criticism for its lack of transparency in its allocation of donor's money.
There are perhaps bigger problems still. The cause itself is admirable, and the possibility that people power can influence the course of American foreign policy and therefore the world is optimistic: Its success in bringing the Obama administration to send a task force of 100 US special forces to help train the Ugandan military is creditable. But the campaign is doomed to fail and therefore also to disappoint the thousand that have gotten involved on the back of such a possibility. Half a decade ago Kony was forced from Northern Uganda into the impassable jungles of the DRC, one of the least governed and governable regions on earth. If he wants to remain hidden there, he will do. The video claims that it was its involvement that forced Kony to 'change tactics' and go into hiding, but in truth he has been in hiding long before the American military assistance was sent.
The DRC means little, currently, to America. Though its vast untapped mineral wealth may indeed bring it to prominence in coming decades, there is no chance, no matter how much popular lobbying power, that the US will involve itself in any larger military campaign there as the video has called for. The US has little regional interest there, no real allies, and no interest in stirring conflict in another part of the globe. What is more the DRC is significantly larger then Vietnam, Afghanistan or Iraq, and I doubt the US military will ever try to claim, as it has done historically, that it can win a campaign there. Such a likely failure is unfortunate and will only lead to the disappointment of those who have pinned on the Kony 2012 campaign their hopes of a more effective role for popular pressure in policy making.
Moreover the campaign asks broader questions as to where to draw the line in the sand. Kony is undeniably a monster who has earned his position at the top of the ICC's list. But a campaign asking for US government intervention smacks of neo-colonialism, albeit with liberal rhetoric. When the campaign fails, what then? Do you move onto number 2 (Sudan) or number 3 (Bosco Ntaganda, also at large in the DRC)? The chasing of these criminals is morally sound but technically impossible and not in America's wider interest. The Iraq war was first justified on the removal of a comparable monster, who not only murdered thousands of Kurds but was allegedly acquiring nuclear weapons. The more likely hidden explanation for the war, based ultimately on the threat Hussein posed to regional oil, was far more within the American public's interest than the removal of Kony, who has no oil and no large conventional weaponry. My prediction is that many within the Invisible Children NGO (a charity motivated towards ending war) were against the intervention in Iraq.
Furthermore as one observer has pointed out (http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2012/03/07/stop-kony-yes-but-dont-stop-asking-questions/) the video makes not one mention of Uganda's president-come-dictator Yoweri Museveni, who came into power at roughly the same time as Kony emerged. Since then Museveni has succeeded in overturning Uganda's democratic system to keep himself in power. Perhaps if he was more accountable to the Ugandan people then he would have felt more of a need to ensure the safety of tens of thousands of children in the North of his country. American efforts could be far better placed in encouraging the re-structuring of the Ugandan democratic system. As P.Bryan will point out, such an end unfortunately is far more complex and un-emotive than the black/white picture painted by the Kony 2012 campaign (and is less effectively juxtaposed next to American kids making sand-angels.)