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Monday, May 19, 2014

Nigeria: Finally a Way to Get Noticed


I probably think more about Africa than most Americans; not much, but at least I follow the news there.  One thing I do know: Africa is a strategic backwater and it only gets attention when something unusually awful happens.  

So good for Boko Haram for getting Americans to think about Africa for 15 minutes or so.  This is the Al Qaida-affiliated terrorist group (really a localized Muslim insurgency against the central government) who name I translate as "Book is Bad."  In the press, Boko Haram is said to mean "Western Education is Sinful."  This is ridiculous.  "Book is Bad" is far more accurate and captures the group's mentality precisely.

Anyway, about a week ago Boko raided a girls' school and carted off nearly 300 of the young ladies.  Later it announced it was selling off the girls to men looking for good Muslim brides.  They supposedly had converted to Islam while being kidnapped. 

The event set off an explosion of reactions in the US, with Michelle Obama demanding the girls immediate release.  Senator John McCain insisted on US military force be used to rescue the girls, and he didn't care if Nigeria's president, a fellow hopefully named Goodluck Jonathan, approved it or not.

Various reports suggest that some form of US advisory help and drone surveillance is on the way.  But so far, no unilateral intervention yet.

The only clear winner in this story might be US Africa Command, which is based, logically, in Stuttgart.  Africom is desperately seeking a reason for its existence with the impending threat of budget cuts (Pentagon is on the hook for about $1 trillion's worth in the next ten years.)  Maybe if it helps rescue the girls, it can survive a little while longer.
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