Does the U.S. Have to Rid the World of Boko Haram?


When it comes to saving 300 kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, President Barack Obama's feelings are as understandable as U.S. military involvement is misguided. Without giving specifics, he's said that "a combination of military, law enforcement, and other agencies" are already in Nigeria.

In a recent column for Time, I argue that emotionalism and trending topics on Twitter is no way to create a coherent and effective foreign policy. A snippet:

"As a father of two girls, I can't imagine what their parents are going through," he told the press. "We're also going to have to deal with the broader problem of organizations like this."

As a matter of fact, the U.S. does not have to rid the world of Boko Haram, no matter how disturbing and repellent its actions are. As with the once-fashionable hunt for Joseph Kony and the Lord's Resistance Army (remember that?), this is a battle to be fought by the nations directly affected, with help from regional and transnational bodies such as the UN. Until Boko Haram shows itself ready, willing and able to do real damage to America, its destruction should not be our goal. There is simply too much awfulness going on in all the corners of the world for the U.S. to wade into such situations.

For virtually the entirety of the 21st century, the U.S. has racked up a perfectly miserable record in bringing stability and calm to countries roiled by terrorists and civil war. Even supporters of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars don't claim the U.S. left those countries better off. Obama's unilateral and unconstitutional decision to wage war in Libya didn't just result in the death of U.S. Amb. Chris Stevens and other Americans in Benghazi, it has created a situation where "so many jihadists are flocking to Libya, it's becoming 'Scumbag Woodstock.'"

Read the whole piece here.