Column Lynch describes how South Sudan is tearing itself apart:

It’s an extraordinary and painful development, given America’s major role in securing independence for South Sudan. But the toughest part for Americans to swallow may be that it’s the U.S.-backed leaders of South Sudan — the supposed good guys — that are responsible for plunging the country into chaos and threatening to wreck America’s signature achievement in the region.

It is unfortunate that South Sudan is suffering from another conflict, but it is regrettably not out of the ordinary when former guerrillas begin feuding with one another after achieving their original political goal. Nor is it entirely unexpected that a poor country that has experienced decades of war would fall back into armed conflict as the means of resolving contests for political power. Lynch also notes that the rebelling vice president has done this before:

It is not the first time that Machar has rebelled against his southern allies, having challenged South Sudan’s late, legendary leader John Garang in 1991. Six years later, Machar signed a peace pact with the Sudanese government in Khartoum that elevated him to vice president, before switching sides again and rejoining his old comrades in arms in the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement in 2002. This time, Machar is taking up arms against his own president, Salva Kiir, a fellow southerner from the Dinka tribe, who fired Machar along with his entire cabinet in July for insubordination.

The “supposed good guys” happened to be the people in charge of the armed insurgency that the U.S. chose to support. Like many other insurgent groups over the years, their “goodness” was defined by their opposition to the government they were rebelling against. Like other cases of separatism gone awry, the new state that the U.S. helped to bring into being was plagued by so many political ills that its turn to authoritarianism, corruption, and internal conflict was practically guaranteed from the start. Given our recent experiences with ill-advised foreign interventions and the constant pleas to support “good” rebels in one conflict after another, Americans will have no trouble believing that the people that Washington anointed as “good guys” proved to be much less than that. They may begin wondering why our government thinks that it knows what it’s doing when it supports the creation of new states that always seemed almost doomed to fail.