The Cruelty of Boko Haram Is Matched by the Incompetence of the Nigerian Government


The massacre of some 2,000 people—mostly children, women, and the elderly, reports the AP—by Boko Haram in Nigeria is horrifying:

District head Baba Abba Hassan said most victims are children, women and elderly people who could not run fast enough when insurgents drove into Baga, firing rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles on town residents.

"The human carnage perpetrated by Boko Haram terrorists in Baga was enormous," Muhammad Abba Gava, a spokesman for poorly armed civilians in a defense group that fights Boko Haram, told The Associated Press.

He said the civilian fighters gave up on trying to count all the bodies. "No one could attend to the corpses and even the seriously injured ones who may have died by now," Gava said.

An Amnesty International statement said there are reports the town was razed and as many as 2,000 people killed.

Over the past year, 10,000 people have been killed, according to Amnesty International's estimate.

The brutality of Boko Haram is matched by the incompetence of the Nigerian government. While I don't think the U.S. should be involved in this conflict, last year 80 American advisors were sent to advise Nigerian forces after the highly publicized kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls.

In December, the Nigerian military, which has its own long and disturbing history of violence, ended the training program without stating a reason (and even as reports that Boko Haram was attacking at will throughout northern Nigeria).

As deeply disturbing and metaphysically unjust as cases such as these are, they also drive home the limits of the United States to be the world's policeman, the recurring fecklessness of governments such as Nigeria's, and the impotence of trans-national bodies such as the Organization of African Unity and the United Nations.

NEXT: NYPD Slowdown Resulting in $10 Million Less a Week in Parking Tickets

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Kind of difficult to wrap your head around that number.

    1. This reminds me of a man who never admitted he was a mercenary in Africa during the 1980s, despite what individuals who knew him the longest maintained. And this also causes me to “kind of” reconsider his line of previous/rumored work.

      I’m interested in your opinion (and most anyone else’s) Fist, how does the NAP apply here?

        1. “Here” as in mercenaries taking money to kill members of Boko Haram.

          It’s a good faith question. What are your views?

          1. Ah, I didn’t know if you meant Nigeria or if you meant America, as in an intervention.

            Just as the NAP/NAA is a keystone of anarchocapitalist thought, so are private defense agencies. Say I am aggressed upon, and for my defense someone is willing to rent the use of his automatic rifle. I would imagine that you would agree that the rental of this weapon wouldn’t violate the NAP. Now say, I require training in how to use this rifle. And so on and so forth till we arrive at the point where I rent the skill and labor of the rifle owner to assist in my defense.

            In short, I argue that the employment of mercenaries to defend one’s self or one’s property is not a violation of the NAP anymore that it would be a violation of the NAP to fight off someone attacking a family member.

            1. I think that you didn’t know what I meant because I wasn’t clear, HM. When commenting on Reason I have a very bad habit of not being thorough.

              Thank you for answering.

              In my opinion your last point answers my question cogently: “In short, I argue that the employment of mercenaries to defend one’s self or one’s property is not a violation of the NAP anymore that it would be a violation of the NAP to fight off someone attacking a family member.”

          2. there’s a decent documentary that interviews a variety of ‘security contractors’, ranging from the South Africans who were legion (no pun) in the 1980s, to the current Iraq/Afghanistan conflict…

            here it is

            There’s a bunch of other similar pieces by frontline, the bbc, other, and in general they take a fairly narrow scope (e.g. “Blackwater” + some other anecdotes) and are generally extremely critical of ‘mercenaries’ as a concept. The above one take a wider view that puts them in some context of the diversity of roles they play.

            In Africa (where they have the longest modern history) it seems that there have been a few cases where they’ve been used ‘for good’ (e.g. Sierra Leone), and other cases (*Equatorial Guinea) where they’ve been used to try and overthrow existing governments for the benefit of outside interests.

            The issue of ‘mercenaries’ is something that its impossible to have a broad-opinion about. It depends on how they’re used. In the case of, “Could they be used to track down/destroy boko haram?” I’d guess that depends on what the govt of Nigeria’s own laws allow.

            1. GILMORE,

              Although you and I are often in disagreement, I can appreciate your views. I am only about 20 minutes into the video for which you provided a link but intend to watch it in its entirety.

              You struck upon a fundamental point which I wanted to see discussed regarding mercenaries: “It depends on how they’re used.”

              This is a point you addressed in your comments, and I’d be interested in what others have to contribute.

              1. “Charles Easterly|1.9.15 @ 8:31PM|#


                Although you and I are often in disagreement

                I had no idea. People disagree with me??

            2. Much the same (exactly the same) can be said of national militaries.

              The semantic problem here is that people give special consideration to things done by ‘government’.

              Russian Army invade Ukraine – the invasion may be condemned, but no-one is going to say that the RA is illegitimate.

              But you get a handful of people with guns to pop over to Nigeria and people will freak out.

              They seriously consider the Nigerian military to be a ‘legitimate’ force (even as it sits on its arse in the barracks) while BH massacres their citizens but would have a shit fit if someone else tried to intervene.

          3. Same as your own military going after them.

            A mercenary is a soldier who’s not blinded by nationalist rhetoric and is always looking at the bottom line.

            Don’t trust him further than you can throw him but otherwise he’s just a soldier.

            1. NAP doesn’t mean pacifism, doesn’t rule out MAD, just ‘no first strike’.

              1. Thanks Agammamon.
                I thought myself to be clear on the NAP as it applies to us as individuals, and wanted other views as it applies to groups/mercenaries. What you’ve written is close to my own thoughts.

                Have a great weekend.

  2. last year 80 American advisors were sent to advise Nigerian forces after the highly publicized kidnapping of 200 schoolgirls.

    Let me guess, they spent their time telling them how to set up Twitter hash-tag campaigns.

    In December, the Nigerian military, which has its own long and disturbing history of violence, ended the training program without stating a reason

    They decided their resources could be better spent sending Boko Haram e-mails promising them millions if they’d kindly forward their bank account numbers and e-mail address to…

  3. They need to hire PMCs.

    1. Is that what Chevron does?

      1. I pity da fool

  4. I don’t think the US should be involved either. OTOH, if they wanted to give our snipers some live targets for practice I wouldn’t lose any sleep over it.

    1. This is the sort of things that wrecks my non-interventionist leanings. Cripes, it’s just a bunch of goons running around in the jungle. Don’t we have satellites? Aircraft? It seems like we need a little on-the-ground training for some small groups of Special Forces.

      I want a version of the rubber stamp from the movie Top Secret!:


      1. We posted the same minute, Papaya. It seems you and I are having a similar experience. I’ll be interested in reading responses to our posts.

        1. Couple issues right off the top. First is that the US won’t just go in, strike and leave. It has to get us involved in all this nation building that is a waste of time and money, gives us no set goals by which to withdrawl, and leaves troops there doing things troops shouldn’t be doing setting them up as targets. Second, if you could just wipe them out and leave, usually in these shit holes it turns into a case of meet the new boss, same as the old boss. Although I cannot imagine who could be worse than these guys.

          1. This. I’m no expert on African culture and politics, but this seems an awful lot like tribal warfare, or at least an evolution of it. Getting rid of one tribe (or “tribe”) isn’t going to change much. If it was that simple, it would have been done already, maybe even by Europeans.

            1. That’s what I was getting at with meet the new boss. Nicaragua and the Sandinista’s come to mind.

              1. I agree with you and 1477 with regards to our government getting involved – I was trying to elicit opinions regarding mercenaries.

                1. Again, basically to what end? As hit squads? Where does that end? If I could push a button and kill everyone of those assholes and that would be the end of it, the button would have already been pushed. Unfortunately there is no easy solution regardless of how much blood or treasure you are willing to commit.

              2. Or Iraq, Libya.

          2. Several things:

            First, we (the US) are still stuck in the WW2 model: conquest, rebuild, BFF forever; this doesn’t work so well in the places we’ve been intervening recently (post WW2).

            Second, the price of intervention in places like Nigeria is that we have to pay-off the local power structure in exchange for a SOFA which is doing them a favor. If they actually cared about civil order and rule of law they’d be doing this themselves by whatever means necessary. It’s more profitable for them to let us do the dirty work but extract as much money from us as possible for base rental, logistics support, etc.

          3. AlmightyJB, I am leaning towards a “strike and leave” strategy for this sort of thing. The nation-building doesn’t seem to work. However, I would like to see jihadi terrorists killed. I think that’s an essential part of any long-term response. These people cannot be appeased or reasoned with, and ignoring them won’t work, either.

            I am not opposed to mercenaries, but that leads to a different series of complications.

            One of the core problems is that the jihadis aren’t following the laws of war, and we’re set up for wars. That’s why they fight as they do. We aren’t philosophically, culturally, or legally set up to counter a violent threat from XX% of the billion followers of a religion that’s in nearly every country on Earth. All possible responses have huge drawbacks.

            1. I get it. i would like them dead too. I just don’t have any confidence that we won’t just screw things up any more. I suppose you could say it can’t get much worse and yet we’ve seen worse.

            2. Our forays into Iraq and Afghanistan certainly helped extinguish any remaining notion within me that any type of nation building could be worthwhile.

              So we either stay out, or come heavy then leave. And learn to live with the consequences either way. Call it the Chief Wiggums strategy: “Powerless to help you, not punish you.”

      2. This is where I think something like a letter of marque would be appropriate.

        1. Probably no shortage of volunteers.

          1. I would imagine. Though 2nd amendment restrictions pretty much necessitate getting the guns from the government.

            1. Shit they sell to our enemies so why not.

              1. It’s just that there doesn’t seem like much difference between sending in U.S. troops and allowing volunteers to go over and fight using weapons supplied by the U.S. government. I dunno. It’s a shitty situation without any obvious solutions.

                1. ” It’s a shitty situation without any obvious solutions.”

                  Agreed. Seems like there is a point where you say fuck these guys and take care of business. Unfortunately our government always seems to find a way to make fucked up situations worse. Its a frustrating situation.

                  1. Or you say “fuck you guys, you’re on your own”.

                    Remember that a Nigerian Air Marshal (ask yourself why a country the size of Nigeria needs a 5/6 star general) says “we can’t send our military there”.

                    As observed by someone here: It’s either not your military or not your country if you can’t do that.

                    1. Is there any scenario that you would envision where you would not say “fuck you guys, you’re on your own”. I’m talking about in terms of women and children being raped and murdered en mass. Regardless of their own governments response. I’m not being fallacious, I know its a complicated situation, I’m just wondering.

                    2. What I’m getting at is Nick wrote this:

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

                      Which I totally agree with however what if any is the exception?

                    3. I don’t know. I think it’s difficult to articulate an overarching principle because these situations are often so complicated and different. I do think there needs to be a clearly defined and realistic goal and end point. And it needs to be a last resort, up to and including local/regional government solutions.

                    4. I would agree on all points. I could see a situation where you might have to act in spite of local/regional government action, all other caveats in place. i also, think you need buy off from the American people. Something not all that easy to do when American interest are not directly involved. So it would have to be a pretty extreme situation.

                    5. It does seem odd that someone would take that attitude re the slaughter of thousands, while being very concerned about a single policeman killing an individual or even a dog. It seems to be that if the enemy is evil enough, it’s like, “Well, they’re total evil, so who cares? It’s only the ones pretending to be good we care about.”

                    6. I don’t think that is a fair comparison, Robert. Yes, both involve unjustified killing (to put it mildly) and abuse of power. But the solutions are completely different, and that is really what is at issue here.

                    7. Exactly. The police work for us. We need to be holding them accountable and we could hold them accountable if we had leaders that had any balls.

      3. If we had a reliable local ground force we could do an ‘ISIS’ on them maybe.

  5. Flashback =

    “If Boko Haram were actually Rappers

    1. They probably are rappers….

        1. Will Smith

  6. Parts of the planet are parallel universes unto the ultra far of human mercilessness…

    I studied genocides for 3 years or so when I was like a quarter dust particle in terms of a philosophical recollection zipping through the outer bounds of the most distant reality and…. I admit I shed more than a pound of tears.

    My cat comforted me. My wife took up the slack otherwise. She’s Dutch which means her mind and body is immensely fuckable but her emotions are a huge middle finger mostly. SO, yeah, my cat was cool with this shit… I just realized my cat hung out with me before my kids were born… wow… personal profundity not a single fucking whore human should ever be concerned with but so goes the launch.

    1. Hope it gets better, bro?

    2. Never change

  7. We will just have to sit back and watch them die out of principle. Ohhh… look, they’re suffering. Best not to help because Nigerians we are not… although some our people are in fact Nigerian.

    Oh well. Life. Liberty.

    1. As discussed above, we could form or join a mercenary company, Lyle. Alternately, you could offer your services to the Nigerian government.

    2. Its not just about principle. Its about ability. We think we are the wealthiest and have the strongest military therefore we can fix any problem. History proves otherwise. Taliban throws acid in little girls faces. We spent how much blood and treasure going after these guys? Guess whose still in charge. If you think mountain warfare is a bitch, try jungle warfare. Oh wait, we did. If we were meeting them on a battlefield I would say go ahead cause we would slaughter them. Ultimately we do not have the ability to make the world a nice place using bullets.

      1. If there are things we can do to help that are not going to drag us into a quagmire and are not just going to make matters worse then I’m all ears. Same shit different country isn’t going to cut it though.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.