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We also should lobby Europe. Our allies have for the most part politely declined President Obama’s recent request, on his European trip, to send more troops to Afghanistan. Countries such as Spain that have pulled out altogether could step up in Congo instead if that suits their national politics better. Spain earlier provided a force commander to the Congo mission, who resigned over the lack of suitable capacities at his disposal; a better approach would be for Spain to provide those capacities and reclaim a command role.

Not just our hearts but also our strategic interests require attention to Congo. For the Obama administration, moreover, this is an opportunity to stabilize the heart of Africa at a moment of great promise and to show the world it really is interested in a new brand of American global leadership. There are risks to such a mission, to be sure, but they are modest relative to the potential for great progress.

Bruce Jones and Michael O’Hanlon are senior fellows at the Brookings Institution. Mr. Jones is also a senior fellow at New York University and co-author of “Power and Responsibility.” Mr. O’Hanlon is a former Peace Corps volunteer to Zaire/Congo.