Plight Of Nigerian Schoolgirls Prompts Examination Of US Foreign Policy

The tragic situation of 250 schoolgirls kidnapped and forced to convert to Islam has captured the attention of world leaders, policymakers and citizens alike. It also has drawn criticism from some corner as representative of so-called “hashtag” foreign policy, in which governments respond rapidly to social media campaigns.

For example, former State Department official Eliot Cohen decried in the Wall Street Journal the teenage mentality that defines some foreign policy officials, writing that America looks “weak, hesitant and in retreat, it is in part because its leaders and their staff do not carry themselves like adults” and “act as though Twitter and clenched teeth or a pout could stop invasions or rescue kidnapped children in Nigeria.”

Three weeks after the girls were abducted by the terrorist group Boko Haram, the question which more people are asking is: For what does American foreign policy stand. One of those voices is Dambisa Moyo, author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa.”

“It is naïve to ignore the mounting evidence that, beyond considering its own strategic and national self-interest, the United States does not have an operating philosophy when it comes to defending human rights. Its decision to remain silent after Egypt’s democratically elected President was overthrown in a coup last year, and its long standing engagement with countries like Saudi Arabia whose cultural ethos/philosophy , in many respects, runs counter to American beliefs, underscore the schism between what America claims to stand for and what it actually does in practice,” she writes.

Moyo acknowledges the complicated dynamics of foreign policy in today’s global environment, but wonders why the US has chosen to ignore its economic, political and security interests.

“After all, Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy by GDP and, with roughly 150 million citizens, it is sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous nation and, in the interest of economic development, children’s access to education should be protected, and in the top ten largest oil exporters to the United States. Moreover, the fact that Boko Haram, a well-known terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda, has proudly claimed responsibility for the abductions should have raised serious security concerns for the United States. Clearly destabilizing Nigeria has direct and dire consequences economic and political consequences for American living standards and way of live,” adds Moyo.

Jonathan Tobin, a Commentary magazine columnist, sees lessons to be learned in the reaction and non-reaction to Boko Haram. He contends those isolationists who wish to step away from the world stage should be asked what the US would do if five years after the last US troops leave Afghanistan, the Taliban rises again.

“What will be the American public’s attitude if, in the coming years after the last American troops have left Afghanistan, the Taliban sweeps to victory and returns to power in Kabul in an orgy not just of murder but of rape in which women and girls are once again the particular objects of their hostility?,” he asks.

He continues: “Perhaps it is too much to ask people to be consistent. But the isolationists who want no part of the global war being waged on the West by Islamist terrorists need to remember that the consequences of our indifference to their crimes are serious. The U.S. may not be able to solve every problem in the world or be its policeman. Yet neither can we pretend that the horrors perpetrated by these Islamists have nothing to do with us. Anyone expressing outrage about Nigeria should remember that the U.S. has made a conscious decision to ignore crimes just as bad in Syria and have set in motion a train of events that may lead to even worse in Afghanistan.”

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