Michael O’Hanlon never learns:
Specifically, the United States could deploy a brigade combat team or one to two security force assistance brigades, or SFABs, making for a total of roughly 5,000 U.S. troops, to the DRC.
O’Hanlon goes on to mention that the current U.N. force is “seriously under-resourced and under-equipped,” and that the current force of under 20,000 “are attempting to aid a country with twice the population and several times the land area of either Iraq or Afghanistan.” If the current numbers are so woefully inadequate, it is hard to see how sending another 5,000 soldiers would make much of a difference. That suggests that this first deployment would either represent the beginning of a much larger mission for which there is zero political support and no funding available, or it would mean that the U.S. was making the mistake of sending its soldiers into a war-torn country with no realistic chance of achieving anything lasting. O’Hanlon recognizes that Americans have no appetite for the former, so he wants to settle for an intervention on a “modest” scale that even he must know won’t have enough of an impact to justify its cost.
Another problem that O’Hanlon fails to address is that Rwanda has been responsible for stoking some of the continuing conflict in Congo, and Rwanda is a U.S. client. He mentions the M23 militia in passing, but neglects to mention that Rwanda was one of its patrons. If O’Hanlon had his way, the U.S. could be putting its soldiers in the unenviable position of having to fight the proxies of one of Washington’s own client governments. At the same time, U.S. forces might be targeted because of our government’s relationship with Rwanda and Uganda. This is exactly the kind of intervention that the public won’t support, and for good reason. Presumably, there is not much chance that anyone in government will take this idea right now, but it is still remarkable and horrifying that there are foreign policy professionals that have looked at the recent history of military interventions abroad and concluded that the U.S. needs to be doing more of them.