It seems that two main things are on people’s minds recently: Jay Z and Solange—and Boko Haram. Though the group has been operating and committing violence since 2010, the terrorist organization caught international attention in recent months for the kidnapping of over 230 girls from a school in Chibok, which started a Western social media campaign, #BringBackOurGirls. As Western leaders attempt to decide what, if anything, they should do about this terrorist organization, some of the women from Thoughts on Liberty have words of caution:
Remember when the United States was considering to invade Iraq and Afghanistan, and we were bombarded with images of Muslim women? If one were to just listen to mainstream U.S. media, you’d think that every woman in the Middle East was an abused, uneducated sex slave. For example, in 2001, Time ran a cover piece called “Lifting The Veil: The shocking story of how the Taliban brutalized the women of Afghanistan,” and The Washington Post declared, “Iraqi Women See Little but Darkness“–curiously the same day that the Iraqi Constitution was ratified. Americans love a good damsel in distress story. We like to swoop in, save those poor, oppressed women from their “evil” and “barbaric” captors, and be the world’s heroes. It’s a narrative that has worked to rally public opinion for centuries. This same story is getting told in its newest variation: Boko Haram. Yes, it is tragic what’s happening to those kidnapped girls. But realize that narrative is little other than a cover to a greater story. Never forget: Nigeria sells 40% of its oil to the United States. We have a vested interest there beyond the girls.
I agree a lot with what Rachel, above, has said. It seems that states jump at the opportunity to use women as a tool to rile the masses and scream for getting involved. Women and children, at least (I’m looking at you, Kony 2012). Keep in mind here that when terrorists begin plaguing members of the communities they’re trying to “protect,” they become their own worst enemies. They continue to be so as long as the United States doesn’t become a bigger enemy. Foreign intervention, even the most well-intended ones, can create ill will and suspicion among people who do not like that their country’s sovereignty is being overrun by a larger power. Think about it: the bully on the playground may beat the crap out of you on a regular basis, but if you both have a bigger, common enemy to fight, you may very well join together to beat that common enemy. And the West’s bungled (at best) understanding of Islam and countries that are not Western will most assuredly mean that even the best attempts to assist will blow up in our faces. I think that Westerners and the people of Nigeria agree that the kidnapping and assault of children in schools is a grievous offense, but I think Nigerians are best off taking matters into their own hands to defend their homes and their children—and they seem to be doing just that.
The situation in Nigeria is terrible. Unfortunately, negative situations like this occur too frequently, even in our own country. I understand that some may want something to be done — but I don’t think U.S. intervention is the way to do it. We cannot play super hero to every conflict (some which don’t get any air time and thus go unnoticed). It only creates more dependencies and sets more precedents instead of encouraging independence and responsibility, things that we are supposed to value in the U.S. As Gina noted, our good intentions can also prove to only create more problems. Although this is a painful situation, it is up to the people of Nigeria to be the ones to do something and bring their girls back home. I think, in the long run, it will be better for everyone.
I think all of us agree that the disappearance of these young women is an absolute tragedy. The political class is clamoring to provide a government solution, like everyone above has already pointed out. What makes this situation different from similar crises in the past? People are paying attention, and it’s not just the libertarians in my news feed. Millennials have been citizens in a nation at war for nearly half of our lifetimes. We’re tired of this song and dance, and we aren’t staying quiet. We’ve used our weapon of choice, Photoshop with aplomb, and it has started a serious conversation that has brought in even the most staunch of neocons. While the kidnapping is a tragedy, the fact that we’re actually paying attention and fighting back against more police-stating is a (small) victory for freedom.
The United Nation’s official condemnation of Boko Haram as a terrorist group is in the works. I do not think that frozen assets or travel bans will make them change their ways. Nor would a #bringbackourgirls social media campaign which, at most, raises awareness among those of us who live at a comfortable distance from Jihadists. Boko Haram is also under suspicion for the recent kidnapping of Chinese workers. We are dealing with a group that seems hellbent on creating an Islamic state and pushing back against all encroachments of Western culture. So other than an awareness-raising, social media campaign, what can we do? Keep the conversation going, as Elizabeth suggests. But it is not our fight and we would not be helping anyone in the long-run if the Obama administration plays World Police (credit to Addie). We ought to keep do-something-ism in check, even when children are the victims.