Heritage's James Carafano, right, testifies about the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside activist and actor Ben Affleck, left.

Heritage's James Carafano, right, testifies about the Democratic Republic of Congo alongside activist and actor Ben Affleck, left.

Heritage Foundation vice president James Carafano testified yesterday before the House Armed Services Committee about the ongoing security challenges facing the Democratic Republic of the Congo. On his same panel was none other than Ben Affleck. Yes, that Ben Affleck.

The African nation has a long history of instability, which has implications reaching far beyond its borders. Unfortunately, the Democratic Republic of the Congo suffers from both a corrupt and ineffective government and a corrupt and ineffective United Nations peacekeeping force.

“Although the U.S. does not have a direct national security interest in the DRC, it does have an interest in promoting stability and good governance,” Heritage experts Morgan Roach and Brett Schaefer explain. The Obama administration should take the following five steps, they write:

  • Acknowledge that the DRC government lacks legitimacy and cannot deliver on its commitments. The U.S. should press Kabila to decentralize authority and transfer power to provincial and local governments.
  • Enforce sanctions on supporters of rebel groups. The recent cut of $200,000 in security assistance to Rwanda for supporting rebels is a welcome sign that the U.S. is prepared to enforce its policy.
  • Encourage regional economic integration. Rwanda and Uganda have much to gain from a stable eastern DRC, particularly one with greater autonomy that would be open to trade and investment.
  • Diminish the size of MONUSCO, limit its mandate, and establish a framework for terminating the mission. It’s time for the United Nations to transition its work and acknowledge it’s not the proper force for implementing peace in eastern Congo.
  • Support the creation of an African Union peacekeeping force. An African-led strategy helped address the dismal situation in Somalia and could bring regional attention to resolving the DRC crisis.

As the founder of the Eastern Congo Initiative, Affleck’s activism in the DRC has helped bring awareness about the country’s instability and its consequences. The actor used his star power during yesterday’s hearing to argue that the administration should urge top-down reforms in the country.

While they disagreed on the exact solution, Carafano and Affleck both argued for important reforms in the DRC. Towards the end of the hearing, Affleck–who typically backs liberal causes–lightheartedly complained that he doesn’t have a Heritage membership: “The Heritage Foundation never offered me membership. It’s fitting that I’m on the far left of the panel.”

Do you think it’s important to join forces with the typically leftist Hollywood stars in order to direct more public attention to lesser known causes?

Comments (19)

lisa kadick - December 20, 2012

My answer to your question is YES. We will never ALL see
eye-to-eye on ALL issues, so it is important for people with
disparate points of view to join forces when there is agreement.
This is how important and generally left or right issues become
EVERYMAN issues, which takes the political aspect out of the
equation. An important issue then becomes about itself rather than
about the people lending their advocacy.

Ron Berti - December 20, 2012

I think you’re on to something here. When Scott Brown ran
in 2010, he had bits and pieces of the media culture with him. At
some of his events, he had a couple of Patriots (Boston is nothing
if not sports-obsessed), Curt Schilling (before he was toxic with
the imposion of his video game company), John Ratzenberger (of
“Cheers” fame), and even his own daughter, late of American Idol.
You got a different “vibe” from his campaign for that reason. Now,
I say this after observing that one of Mitt’s problems (and
conservatives generally) lost because he could not come close to
being as cool as Obama. In an age dominated by what Limbaugh calls
“low information voters”, we conservatives and libertarians are
easy to castigate as “out of touch”. We NEED to create a crack in
the monolith of the Left on college campuses, in the press and in
Hollywood. Hell, for starters, tell Carafano to approach Affleck
with a free 12-month membership. If Affleck reads even 20% of the
stuff you send out, it might get him more open to considering what
we on the Right have to say. It might become less of a caricature
to him. And if we did that to a couple dozen folks in the pop
culture, it would make conservatism less toxic/more acceptable in
popular culture.

PaulE - December 20, 2012

With all the major priorities we have to deal with, this
item doesn’t even merit our attention. Our country is in danger of
being ripped apart and we’re wondering how to prioritize a civil
war conflict in Africa. Focus on what is important!

jack shanklin - December 20, 2012

I for one don’t believe the USA should put its’ nose into
every troubled country’s business. It seems when we do take sides
it is invaribly the wrong side. As for Ben Affleck, if he promises
to stay on the far left of the panel then I would see no reason to
offer him a membership in The Heritage Foundation.

Sharron Ashton - December 20, 2012

No, it is not intelligent to attempt joining liberals in any pursuit. Many different nations have been trying to solve the problems in the Congo since the 1960s. There has never been a resolution because other nations have continued to impose their will on this part of Africa. It’s time to let them solve their own problems. We should be focusing on the ongoing decay of our own country.

Derak James - December 20, 2012

It is definitely important to get exposure, especially in person, to the people who never watch the news and, unfortunately, even those people who worship 0bama no matter what. This exposure needs to be done in person instead of relying on the half-truths, if that, that democrat superpacs will present, even if the white house helps them film the ad and later denies knowledge; you know of what I speak. Doubt me? Consider the huge shift in indepents after the first debate, where Romney was nothing that democrat sponsored ads had said him to be. Unfortunately, America is so dominated by those happy to rely on government for their next meal that even Chuck Norris couldn’t shift the balance to Romney. Not only do we have every mainstream news network to overcome, but the peer pressure in hollywood on these young stars who may have never worked, and have probably never even seen a tax return, is enormous. So, a republican candidate is going to have to go into the wolves den himself and talk straight to the viewers. Do not let the crooks establish the narrative, straight out tell the viewers the problems that liberalism have caused and tell them the conservative approach to improve their lives. I know we tried at the RNC, and with minority examples of raising themselves to prominence by, oh how do I say this, w-o-r-k, but how many of these pop-star worshipping, able-bodied, young welfare recipients even watched it? Speaking of the wolves den though, I know Romney told it straight at the NAACP, and I don’t remember if it actually changed the black vote much, but judging by the extremely foolish (reverse) racism comments by some leading the NAACP, they were either infuriated or scared that Romney might threaten the shackles they’ve installed on some of their sheep. You know what I mean. What kind of organization claims to represent people of color and then claims that they can’t even manage to start bank accounts for themselves? If I had a lawyer that claimed I was a complete invalid at adult life, I would be getting a new lawyer. That point made, I think the vile reactions to Romney speaking the truth to their flock were out of fear that some of the enormous amounts of money and effort by the democratic party to keep minorities trapped in a bubble of misinformation may have been wasted. I say if it enrages the devil, then it’s probably on the right track.

Jeff Yetter - December 21, 2012

Funny that the Mainstream media can so easily abdicate its’ responsibility to report on ALL aspects of human/governmental shortcomings while focusing on whipping to a froth domestic nerve-ending issues like gun control.
As to being “cool” as the non-entity in the White House, Please,LORD, save us from that fate. How many generations have learned, on passing the age of thirty, that “cool’ doesn’t pay rent/mortgages, buy groceries, or create a stable legacy to pass along?
I concur whole-heartedly with Mr. Shanklin’s viewpoint. We cannot save every ink-spot Hell-hole country, nor should we.

JIm - December 21, 2012

I despise Hollywood/celebrity worship. I’m not impressed that Carafano was on the same panel as Affleck.

Carrie W. - December 21, 2012

YES! What a great way to get attention to important causes AND potentially bridge the gap on other issues with people typically on the left.

holly chapo - December 21, 2012

I don’t know about joining forces with leftist Hollywood types, but using social media to make known certain causes is a start. Talk radio can participate. So can special “columns” in various publications, both print and internet. Fox News can be a valuable asset in this regard with special reports. Where ther’s a will, there’s a way.

Neutral Energy - December 21, 2012

Yes. Conservatives need to share the same microphone, public forum, and moment in time in those places where the “street” democrats are expecting to hear THEIR government. Then, never voice a conservative position as an opinion, but instead by message, laying out collective facts first and allowing those dots-connected speak the message, position, argument, an undeniable truth. Also, disarm by voicing some agreement with some part of fact or principle that the liberal argues (but only if it sincerely deserves credit).

Gene Bahls - December 22, 2012

Politically, I’m usually inclined to put my voice and assets behind any country struggling to achieve a democratic and free nation. I have been bombarded during and after the recent election to join and support all kinds of reported conservative organizations. Many of these claim support from big name polliticos or celebraties. I am beginning to wonder if some of these are coordinated liberals trying to diminish our conservative impact by diluting our resources.
I am much more concerned since the election in saving our own nation. Is it time to consolidate all worthwhile organizations on the conservative side and unite in a planned, coordinated attack to hit the US libs from every side. Taking on the world reminds me of the old tired but still effective strategy: Divide and Conquer. The more causes we take under our wings the weaker we become.

Dennis Crouch - December 22, 2012

We have too many problems in this country that need to be addressed to examine a situation that doesn’t affect our national interest. However, give Ben Affleck a one year complimentary membership and maybe he’ll become better informed on conservative values and approaches.

Mary Behr - December 22, 2012

Absolutely, yes! These times require more focus on the issue at hand and diminished focus on ‘left’ and ‘right’ identification. Practice this and the political fog may clear. Use this approach and overwhelming political stranglehold insulting the United States citizens may lose its grip. We may actually begin a real dialogue. Maybe, common sense will prevail, the ‘ah ha’ moment. People do live their lives as conservatives.

David Leffingwell - December 23, 2012

Absolutely. If aligning with a lefty like Affleck boosts
our chances of accomplishing something worthwhile, then we should
take advantage of the opportunity. That the DRC – like much of
sub-Saharan Africa – is by any standards a festering hellhole is
not new information by any stretch, but Africa’s problems tend not
to make a very large blip on the radar screen of most Westerners.
If Affleck’s involvement is enough to generate more widespread
awareness of the existence and dire nature of DRC’s (and Africa’s)
catastrophic existence – great, although I have serious doubts that
many people will be roused to take meaningful action because of
Affleck’s participation. The deadliest hazards inherent in joining
forces with the left have nothing to do with publicizng the DRC’s
problems, but with resolving them – leftists never seem to grasp
the idea that, once the turmoil and chaos have abated, fixing the
underlying organic problems that created the mess in the first
place is the right and responsibility of the people who actually
live there.

Smiley - December 23, 2012

To direct more attention to lesser known causes, just blame
President Bush for the problem. You will have the major news
networks all over it.

eml - December 26, 2012

Hollywood people are so full of themselves they are laughable. What credentials does Affleck have to speak to anyone, much less a congressional committee, on any political issue, domestic or foreign? It’s like the Alec Baldwin (another piece of work) commercial in which he says from an airplane cockpit: “It’s OK–I’ve played a pilot!” DUH!!!!!

Paula Piltz - December 29, 2012

I think the US needs to clean up the corruption in our own government before sticking our noses into another countries corruption!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Morgan Lorraine Roach - December 31, 2012

Hey Katie, Many thanks for your attention to this. After 13
years of MONUSCO’s failure it’s time to look for a new solution
rather than be complacent with the status quo. For those who don’t
understand America’s interest in the DRC, I encourage you to read
the policy paper cited in the post:
Best regards, Morgan

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