03/09/2012 10:04 am ET Updated May 09, 2012

Kony 2012 Video: Money for Nothing

The United States believes that it is the ultimate provider of democracy and morality for the third world. This week, in accordance with America's self-righteousness, a documentary entitled 'Kony 2012' went viral, captivating the minds and hearts of Facebookers. The video focuses on conditions in Uganda pertaining to dictator Joseph Kony and his army of child soldiers. Average Americans, most of who had never heard of the issue, sprang into action in order to revitalize that usually dormant sense of world awareness. However, the video perpetuates the same mentality as the U.S. policy towards Africa. If the United States wants to truly be a deliverer of democracy and help the impoverished masses, we must stop the techniques employed in Kony 2012 and the concept of giving aid rather than providing more economic structure and self-sustenance.

The main point of the video is that the United States should use military intervention to work with the Ugandan army to overthrow Joseph Kony. The leaders of the Invisible Children organization clearly did not pay attention in history class. The very basis of this argument is flawed. Military intervention, especially against an army of child soldiers, is incredible risky. Furthermore, military intervention, in general, is a complicated venture -- rarely does it go swiftly or as planned. In addition, the United States is not good at fighting in the jungle or on rough terrain, as proved in Vietnam and Afghanistan. The last thing the United States needs is another prolonged war and the loss of more innocent Americans.
However, the largest problem with the concept of military intervention is that it does not really solve the problem. Sure, taking down Joseph Kony would be beneficial, but it would only go so far. Within Uganda, the problem goes deeper than one man and his policy. The Kony regime is a complex organization that is integrated into the country's politics. By removing Kony and his regime, we would leave Uganda leaderless and in chaos. Uganda's problems extend beyond a military regime; in fact, the entire country is in disarray. Economic underdevelopment is the main blockage of progress in Uganda. Simply removing Kony from power in Uganda may have short-term implications, however, in the long run, it is a foolishly placed effort.
So how can we help Africa? To start, we must stop our current policy of aid. Aid has bolstered government corruption and been detrimental to the welfare of the people. When the United States gives aid to governments, it is given to the leadership to manage. This often results in government officials, like Joseph Kony and cronies, usurping money for themselves and controlling the flow of cash for their own special interests. Sometimes, the dictators will channel the money into the very organizations that we are trying to fight. By placing the money into the hands of dictators, the Unites States is giving control of the situation to an untrustworthy partner, who does not share our vision and goals for the good of the nation.
For the average African, aid has had a debilitating effect. While Bono and his fellow celebrities may feel like crusaders of the African cause, this type of direct monetary assistance, which has defined the United States policy towards Africa, has squelched progress toward economic self-sustainability. Africa's main problem is the underdevelopment of its economy. Citizens are left helpless due to a lack of developed industries and opportunity. The constant provision of aid simply provides for Africans without encouraging them to provide for themselves. It also shuts down small-scale industries and destroys the spirit of entrepreneurship. Our current policy of aid creates a system of eternal dependency of which we are an integral part.
Between the policies of aid and intervention, the United States needs to drastically alter its strategy towards Africa. Helping Africa is possible through improving African economic infrastructure. Dictators like Kony are able to capitalize on the fragile state of their respective economies by manipulating the desperate people and reigning through economic dominance.  This can by combated through creating economic opportunities in Africa. To start, on a governmental level, countries should be encouraged to allow the United States to provide more a comprehensive transparency index in each country, so that the action of governments will be visible and politicians can be held accountable by the U.S. and their own people. The United States should work with existing efforts to establish stable bond markets in Africa. These markets, in essence, would promote the flow of capital into Africa that would develop their economies. Additionally, investors would be tied financially to the well-being of their respective countries causing greater international concern for the financial stability of Africa as a whole.  
The United States should also focus on infrastructure. In the Kony 2012 video, Invisible Children touches upon this by promoting the construction of schools. Infrastructure will help to industrialize Africa's economy allowing for further development of resources. This will create better opportunities for citizens and businesses while also developing other infrastructure projects, like roads and railroads. Furthermore, the United States should focus on building schools in Africa to try to break cyclical poverty and promote income mobility. Lastly, in the case of the war-ridden regions of Africa, exemplified through Kony's Uganda, the United States should focus on empowerment through giving arms, monetary support, and Internet communication rather than using our own hard power.
Although brought to our attention by a viral video, the dire situation in Africa is not new and shows no signs of improving. If the United States truly wants to embody its self-proclaimed role of global development crusader, it needs to stop practicing antiquated, ineffective policies like direct monetary aid or support of  Invisible Children's ridiculous policy of U.S. military intervention. We must utilize new long-term policies that empower Africans to be self-sustaining. While the Kony 2012 video may have highlighted the problems in Uganda and throughout Africa, the video just showcases the perpetual ignorance that exists not only within our populace but also with our policymakers who cannot seem to break the cycle of aid and intervention.