After the international media drumbeat about the Boko Haram mass abduction built to a deafening noise in the past 72 hours, the U.S. White House and the State Department have decided to get involved, probably militarily.
The United States offered Tuesday to send a team of experts to Nigeria to help find more than 200 kidnapped schoolgirls amid a wave of outrage over their abduction.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry made the offer in a phone call to Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan, who welcomed it, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.
Washington has also offered to set up a coordination cell at its embassy in Abuja with US military personnel, law enforcement officials as well as experts in hostage situations, she said.
In Abuja, Jonathan accepted the offer which his office said would “include the deployment of US security personnel and assets to work with their Nigerian counterparts in the search and rescue operation.”
The Nigerian leader said his country’s “security agencies, who were already working at full capacity to find and rescue the abducted girls, would appreciate the deployment of American counter-insurgency know-how and expertise in support of their efforts.” …
Psaki said Obama “has directed that we and the secretary… do everything we can to help the Nigerian government find and free these young women.”
As someone who remembers the Battle of Mogadishu, I’m not entirely sold. The risks are enormous, both in the propaganda war (Islamist radicals will probably use America’s involvement to further their narrative that the West is “waging war on Islam”) and in the real world. Legitimate concern for the girls is far from over; Boko Haram’s depravity is such that, if and when troops advance on the girls’ hideout, many of the kidnap victims may be deliberately shot, stabbed, or blown to smithereens by their captors.
On the other hand, doing nothing is simply intolerable.
And maybe some optimism is warranted. I just finished reading the page turner of a New Yorker story about the capture of the Mexican drug lord El Chapo, accomplished with plenty of U.S. assistance. Though I’m not typically a fan of government force (especially the kind that’s employed abroad), the American units who, if it comes to that, will be dispatched to the Nigerian jungle, have my deep respect. Nothing you or I will ever do is remotely as hazardous or possibly as rewarding. Let’s hope that there’ll be good news to report in days and weeks to come.