It’s heartwarming to see American politicians/celebrities/pundits (increasingly hard to know who’s who) rally behind the #BringBackOurGirls initiative to address the awful kidnapping of almost 300 girls by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria. But, um, why? Don’t get me wrong, this is dreadful. But how are these particular 300 girls different from the 10,000 children killed in Syria? Almost certainly, some of these children were girls. Fifty-nine children were killed in Aleppo last week. And what about the epidemic of rape in Syria?
The real problem here is that Islamist extremism is growing. Boko Haram and its leader Aboubakar Shekau (“I abducted your girls. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell.”) are part of the epidemic of al Qaeda linked and related groups that are sweeping Africa and the Middle East. Our own Katie Zimmerman explained the ties between Somalia’s al Shebaab and Boko Haram back in 2011. And despite widespread recognition of the growing threat of these groups – particularly in Yemen and Syria – the Obama administration has yet to acknowledge that we are losing the fight against Islamist extremism; not only are we losing, but there’s a real question as to whether the administration thinks we’re in such a fight. Killing terrorists with drones appears to be the sole element of what was once known as the “war on terrorism.” Call it what you want, the reality is that something more than targeted assassination is going to be needed to address the Boko Harams and the Shebaabs and the Jabhat al Nusras and, of course, the wider al Qaeda network.
Is that something the #BringBackOurGirls effort? Nah. While laudable, let’s face reality: the campaign is nothing more than an effort by unserious people to latch onto the terrible plight of a tiny proportion of victims of terrorism in order to make themselves feel good about… you got it… themselves.