Boko Haram and the dangers of hashtag diplomacy
WASHINGTON, May 15, 2014 — The World holds its breath and prays for the return of over 300 Nigerian girls taken from their homes. They were taken by Islamist terrorist organization Boko Haram, a group that has been operating in the area for some time now. The group is responsible for many atrocities.
Awareness of this tragedy has been heightened by the introduction of hashtag diplomacy in the form of #bringbackourgirls. Everyone from Pakistani equal rights activists to Michelle Obama has tweeted support for the #bringbackourgirls movement. It is about time, they argue, that the girls come home.
A question, though, born of simple curiosity: Where have all of these people been?
Where was hashtag diplomacy when Boko Haram massacred 59 school boys at a boarding school in February? According to the Police Commissioner, Boko Haram burned 24 buildings and set the students on fire after they shot them.
Where was hashtag diplomacy when Boko Haram decimated a fishing village in Izghe? One-hundred six people were killed in that attack, the vast majority of them males.
Where was hashtag diplomacy when Boko Haram went on a shooting spree and killed 60 people in the Nigerian state of Borno? According to Al-Jazeera, the group hurled explosives into homes, and poisoned water supplies.
Where was hashtag diplomacy when the death toll from Boko Haram attacks reached 1500?
The failure of the Obama administration to recognize the danger that Boko Haram poses to African security is symptomatic of their failure to recognize the dangers of radical Islamic movements World-wide. Year after year, we have watched as African and Middle-Eastern government descend into chaos and civil war, only to be exploited handily and deftly by the veteran fighters and experienced organizers of the various radical Islamist militia groups.
All over Africa and the Middle-East, radical Islam is slowly eroding weak and vulnerable governments to sew destabilization. All over Africa and the Middle-East, radical Islam exploits troubled rulers, civil unrest, social disturbance, and unstable governments in order to incite civil war. They incite civil war for the sole purpose of toppling the government, and replacing it with a hard line Islamic state adherent to Sharia law.
Yet we were lead to believe al-Qaeda was decimated. We were told that they were no longer a threat, and that the United States and her allies had relegated them to the footnotes of history. Those who argued their destruction pointed to the lack of terrorist attacks, using safety to justify increased security measures and surveillance. They said, look it worked, al-Qaeda is gone. The witch is dead.
The witch is not dead; the witch reorganized.
Instead of concentrating on dealing blows to the Great Satan and the West, radical Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda have gone from launching suicide attacks to creating franchises.
How they intend to do that is another story, and leads us to the meat and potatoes of a very serious problem. The State Department and the Nigerian government are considering the offer by Boko Haram to swap their three hundred prisoners, for their captured comrades currently incarcerated by the US.
This is a mistake.
For those of you who have not been paying attention to the situation in Africa, radical Islam has managed to take advantage of a multitude of unstable governments, they have even staked out territory, and if had not been for the intervention of French forces, Mali would now be under the control of al-Qaeda.
While President Obama arms radical Islamists in Syria, radical Islamists are undermining the security of nations across Africa, in particular Northern Africa, the Maghreb, and Sub-Saharan regions. And the United States has had a direct hand in contributing to that undermined level of security. Through their actions in Syria, Libya, and Egypt, the United States and the West have created ample opportunity for radical Islamist groups such as al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda on the Islamic Maghreb, Al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram to exploit the power vacuums in a given area, and gain territory.
In Iraq, the power vacuum left behind by the United States, unable to be filled by a faltering Iraqi government, has allowed for al-Qaeda in the form of The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant to seize control of the western half of the country. These are the same people that President Obama is arming in Syria. With money and weapons from the United States, al-Qaeda is launching offensives against our troops in Iraq. With the inclusion of Afghanistan, the collective foreign and defense policies of the last two administrations have provided militant Islamic organization with battle grounds to send fresh fighters to gain experience.
It is no wonder that Boko Haram kidnapped three hundred girls, and is holding them ransom. It is a wonder, however, that anyone thinks this administration is going to do anything substantial about it.
But thanks to hashtag diplomacy, actions will now be taken.
But it’s too little too late.
The very same people who are now decrying the abduction of three hundred girls in Nigeria, through hashtag diplomacy, at the hands of radical Islamists were silent when Syrian Opposition militants that the US currently supports kidnapped six Red Cross workers.
Hashtag diplomacy was silent when militants, supported by US guns and money, from the Al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant kidnapped over 100 ethnic Kurdish villagers from their homes in Aleppo.
Hashtag diplomacy was silent when Opposition militants kidnapped twelve Greek Orthodox nuns north of Damascus.
This is not to say that the kidnapping of 300 Nigerian girls is not tragic. This is not to say that we as a nation, and as a free world, should not endeavor to assist those nations in fighting radical Islam wherever it may rear its head. But the idea that now we should be paying attention to radical Islam, that now we are coming to the conclusion that al-Qaeda is not dead, that they have multiplied and that they have reorganized.
We should be paying attention to the fact that in Syria we are arming our enemy, people with like minds of Boko Haram. We should pay attention to the fact that if radical Islam were the priority to national security that our President said it was when he so famously rebuked Mitt Romney, then al-Qaeda would not be operating freely in Syria and Iraq, and Boko Haram would not be kidnapping three hundred girls without threat of substantial reprisal.
While Nigeria burned, and Boko Haram was killing school boys, and massacring villages, where was hashtag diplomacy? Where were the masses then? The failure of the United States and the West to recognize and deal with Boko Haram, and groups all across Africa, and the Middle-East, is what lead to this point. The West has let Africa fall into the grips of those who would see the rise of those individuals responsible for the events of September 11, 2001.
The West has done little to help Africa combat radical Islam. Certainly when the United States believes that radical Islam is no longer a threat, it is difficult to convince them to act otherwise. The Obama Administrations attitude towards dealing with radical Islam, or even recognizing the danger is poses, leaves much to be desired.
If President Obama trades prisoners for the girls, then Boko Haram has already won. They will have legitimized themselves in the eyes of the radical community, they will have faced down the United States, and they will have further undermined the ability of the Nigerian government to effectively protect their population. This is not the time for hashtag diplomacy. The United States must meet the demands of Boko Haram with extreme, unrelenting force. Until Boko Haram, and their allies, learn that the United States answers threats with terrible retribution, Nigeria will continue to plunge into turmoil, and we will continue to see more killings, and kidnappings.
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