If Boko Haram Ignores Social Media Pressure, Then What?


Over at his Telegraph blog Dan Hodges asks what we're going to do if Boko Haram, the Nigerian Islamist organization that recently kidnapped over 200 girls, doesn't succumb to the demands of those posting the #bringbackourgirls hashtag.

Boko Haram recently released footage of some of 136 of the kidnapped girls. In the footage the girls repeatedly recite the first verse of the Koran, and Boko Haram's leader says he might consider swapping some of the girls for imprisoned militants.

As Hodges notes, the heart-wrenching situation, and the reactions to it have caught the attention of First Lady Michelle Obama as well as British Prime Minister David Cameron. But, Hodges asks, "What are we going to do about it?"

Hodges says that he is ok with "some big, rough men, with very big guns to say to Boko Haram: 'We've come to take our girls back. And if you try to stop us, it's the last thing you'll ever do.'" However, Hodges goes on to note that this approach could be a problem: What are we supposed to do if Boko Haram carry out another mass kidnapping, or a similar horror is carried out in Syria or Ukraine?

More from Hodges:

Do we want to be the world's policeman, or do we not? If we don't, then fine. But let's take down the signs, and the hashtags, because all we're doing is communicating our own impotence.

It shouldn't be forgotten that the social media campaign related to the recent Boko Haram kidnapping is expressing outrage over what is a comparatively minor atrocity by the group's standards. Boko Haram has not only kidnapped girls, it is responsible for thousands of deaths. Indeed, only a few weeks after the kidnapping the group killed hundreds of people near Nigeria's border with Cameroon.

Thankfully, Secretary of Defense  Chuck Hagel said yesterday that the U.S. did not intend "at this point" to send ground troops to Nigeria to help in the search for the missing girls. However, U.S. military advisers are in Nigeria as part of an international search effort.

Remember, the awful kidnapping is not a threat to U.S. national security. As Reason's Nick Gillespie noted over at Time:

The goal of our foreign policy, and especially interventions involving soldiers, should always be tightly tied to protecting American lives, interests and property.

As horrific as Boko Haram's kidnapping of the school girls is, it in no way poses a threat to "American lives, interests and property."

Read Reason's Ed Krayewski on "Four Reasons US Intervention in Nigeria Is a Bad Idea" here.