Unintended and Devastating Consequences in South Sudan

Five years after South Sudan’s founding, its conditions are arguably worse than those that initially led Americans to push for the territory’s independence from Sudan.

Reflecting on the situation for The Boston Globe, Stephen Kinzer writes about how a coalition of Americans, which included Christians, human rights activists, the Congressional Black Caucus, and movie stars, lobbied for U.S. intervention in a country where military forces, mostly Muslim Arabs, periodically raided their southern Christian neighbors. As a result, Washington pressured Sudan’s former President, Oman al-Bashir, to allow the south to secede.

As Kinzer writes, “well-meaning Americans thought they were rescuing the oppressed and delivering them into freedom” but today, South Sudan is plagued by “deep rival animosities” resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of its citizens, a demolished decrepit economy, and a population among the poorest in the world.

Furthermore, Kinzer observes that “by crashing into a country about which they knew painfully little, the interventionists ended up intensifying human suffering rather than alleviating it.” According to Kinzer, moral idealism drove the intervention rather than a “clear-eyed recognition of national security interests. Yet dividing Sudan served no US interest.”

Finally, Kinzer concludes that the lesson of South Sudan is that “crashing into other countries often leads to tragedy—even if we do it with policy instead of guns.” South Sudan’s devastating current conditions serve as another example of the unintended consequences that stem from the United States’ overconfidence in its own ability to effect change in other nations, even when well-intentioned.

More Blog Posts

09-02-2020 01:00pm

How Market-Based Management® cultivates a contribution mindset

The Koch Associate Program (KAP), a year-long opportunity that blends professional development with real work experience, works with early-career professionals who want to discover their passions, develop their unique talents, and jumpstart their careers as social entrepreneurs.

Read more

08-28-2020 01:00pm

How families and students — not institutions — are innovating education

We recently spoke with Adam Peshek, a Charles Koch Institute senior fellow, who covers a range of education policy issues, from education choice to innovative learning models.

Read more

08-18-2020 02:26pm

Customizing K-12 education to meet the individual needs of students and families

CKI's Lisa Snell offers her perspective on how the ongoing pandemic may affect education, challenges of our current educational system, and how she’d like to see a “permissionless” system.

Read more

Sign up for updates