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Semiformalishmaybe

Kony and Colony

Recently I've been pretty frustrated with American foreign policy/posturing; it seems we're unwillingly gearing up to fight the wrong war (against Iran) on Israel's behalf, while ignoring the plight of the citizens of Syria who are dying (thank goodness for John McCain, for standing up for intervention while our cowardly president sits on his hands). I'd rather have us pledge to attack Israel if it attacks Iran, and intervene to help the people of Syria overthrow their dictator (in some way that ideally would keep American feet off the soil).

There's been some interesting push-and-pull over Joseph Kony, a militia leader in Uganda who seems to have been doing his very best to follow in the footsteps of Idi Amin. Some of Kony's victims met some producers in the west, and we got a nonprofit called Invisible Children that produced a film called "Kony 2012" to build consensus that we should put more resources to catch Kony and enforce the ICC rulings against him. Kony is listed as the 9th most wanted international fugitive by Forbes; he's been on the run for years.

That's the push, here's the pull; a number of people have pointed out that Invisible Children doesn't do a lot else beyond raise consciousness; and as a charity it has a very high level of overhead. It's questioned whether its mission is the best use of time/money/consciousness, and whether any increased presence in the area will lead to more western economic dominance in the area. There's also the usual grumbling about do-gooders in the west; that the western world should not have the chutzpah to get involved in foreign conflicts and claim it knows what other parts of the world.

Thoughts:I agree with much of the push and the pull. I feel it's pretty important to track down those who commit crimes against humanity. Doing so consistently helps dissuade horrific acts that may happen in the future; it's a rule-of-law thing (or really a rule-of-norms thing). Kony is not necessarily the *most* important cause, and the timing of this is peculiar, but it is still important (the peculiar timing does mean it's reasonable to be concerned that we're being played in some manner; in my opinion, certain atrocities should automatically trigger immediate military intervention by the United Nations). It is a bit odd that Children in Need is a charity that's mostly about information and consensus-building, but given how many tragedies happen in the world that we turn our back on, the importance of consensus-building should not be overlooked.

And of course I dismiss out of hand the anti-colonialist arguments; I am not for colonies, but the idea that the most troubled regions of the world would not be improved by western aide (and even western direction, in a suitably generic sense) is, IMO, rubbish. We should not aim to remake the world in precisely our image; we should not even overthrow non-democratic regimes for the sake of their not being democratic, but we should push for at least the following, worldwide:

  • Reasonable government transparency
  • A functional judiciary, with rule of law
  • Independent news media
  • Equal citizenship and privilege for those of all races, all castes, and both genders
  • No legal or systemic violence tied to race, caste, religion, or sexual preference (among consenting adults) or identity
  • No required religious or political affiliation of citizens
  • The principle of people being able to criticise or mock political leaders, religious leaders, business leaders, and gods without any legal or strong social consequence
  • Reasonable labour standards
  • Adequate infrastructure
I appreciate that we're seeing consensus build against Kony, and that the film is a masterful piece of PR towards that end. It makes me wonder though, are there other nations that are doing this kind of thing today? Are we sitting on our hands while other atrocities of this magnitude happen (in Syria, we know we are, but even at his worst Assad is no Kony)?

And there still is one thing I believe we need to pledge: We should *never* get involved in humanitarian wars with the intent of building special business ties to the new regime. We should not install governments that are obliged (or strongly nudged) to use our contractors, or to become tied to our military-industrial complex. We should not press for deals with incoming governments while we are still providing essential services (security or otherwise) for them, and we should take care to prevent the mercenaries (it's a damned shame such groups even exist, and that we hire them) we use from doing the same.

We should not be ashamed to try to do good by the world, but we need to build tall, strong fences in our own house to prevent our help from becoming an economic infection. There is far too much truth in the idea that we're only interested in tragedies in countries where we have an economic interest. We must fix that.

In other news, I'm back in PHL for tonight, and will be fetching the U-Haul tomorrow for the main lugging-stuff-to-Brooklyn trip. I'm not sure if I'll actually be leaving tomorrow or thursday, but fortunately I have a 1-way rental, which simplifies things considerably. In the meantime, packing. Slightly bitter that at each recent MegaBus trip, some of the passengers had a bunch of people waiting there who were happy to see them. That kind of thing basically never happens to me, but I guess that's more of a to-do than anything else. Sigh. Some of the usual political arguing online has been fairly interesting recently; helped show some people why Sam Harris's "philosophy" is rubbish, and I've had a fun time fending off the conservatives that come sniffing around Bernie Sanders' G+ page. It's good to see that there are fellow socialists (of all stripes) chiming in there; it makes me feel less alone in my politics.

Oh, hey, had a nice Wawa sub tonight. I am kinda crazy about Wawa.

Anyhow, back to the packing.

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