Justin King | The Anti-Media
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When over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls were kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, much of the world expected the United States to step in and employ its satellite and drone fleet to locate the girls. As days turned into weeks, the United States still had not flashed its world policeman’s badge. Image credit: twitter/Independent
Those that followed the tragedy from coverage provided mainly from the alternative media outlets in the United States became skeptical and confused when the mainstream US outlets picked up on the story and began acting as if the insurgency in Nigeria and the Boko Haram kidnappings were new events. Many quickly saw that something just wasn’t right about the sudden US coverage and the pleadings.
While this journalist takes great pride in his network of sources that bring up to the minute coverage of events even from the most remote locations, there is no doubt that the major news bureaus as well as US intelligence have the same access or better. The question then remains of what caused so much time to pass before the United States ramped up its propaganda machine and began advocating intervention.
The Reason for the Delay
The Boko Haram has been in existence since 2002 and has been extremely violent since 2009, but the organization just wasn’t causing enough mayhem to bring the Nigerian government to the point where it would request US-intervention. The State Department, under Hillary Clinton, resisted placing the Boko Haram on the Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) list even after she received a letter stating that the
“Boko Haram’s rapid progression from a machete wielding mob to a full blown al Qaeda affiliate targeting the United Nations and Western interests is deeply concerning to multiple members of the U.S. Intelligence Community, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the U.S. Department of Defense’s Special Operations Command (USSOCOM).”
The designation as an FTO would have allowed several US agencies to begin choking off funding and more effectively targeting the group’s leadership. These steps could have prevented the mass kidnappings from taking place, but that was not in accordance with US strategy. Make no mistake, even with the First Lady’s photo carrying the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls, the decision to intervene has nothing to do with the desire to preserve life or the plight of kidnapped schools girls, and everything to do with expanding the US presence in Africa.
Now that the girls are most likely scattered, separated, and sold off the US has decided to involve itself. The delay allowed what would have been a mission with clearly defined goals and objectives to morph into the type of ambiguous open-ended mission that inevitably leads to a prolonged US involvement and eventual subjugation of the host government. That may have been an intended consequence of the delay. After all, the newly created Africa Command (AFRICOM) has been scouring the continent for missions.
A protracted and involved operation in Nigeria might be exactly what AFRICOM needs to justify its existence. The training and nation stabilization operations that will be conducted in the name of combating an Al-Qaeda linked group will give the United States a better foothold in the resource-rich African nation.
The humanitarian benefits of US involvement are ancillary to the desire to establish a new sphere of influence to combat growing Chinese influence on the continent. The US appears to have adopted a strategy of denial in Africa, whereby it blocks Chinese influence by waiting for a relatively small humanitarian crisis to build to an uncontrollable level then offers its support after being invited into the nation. Historically, there are very few examples in which the US leaves a nation once it has established bases of operation.
The Strategy Failure
The US approach mainly gains its power from the stick, while the Chinese are offering the carrot. The Chinese have a lengthy history in Africa; support from African nations was critical in aiding the People’s Republic of China in obtaining its permanent seat on the UN Security Council back in 1971. Contrary to the western media’s portrayal of China as a neo-colonial power in Africa, its economic deals on the continent have been constructed on a country-by-country basis to be mutually beneficial and have expressly forbid the attachment of political strings.
Rather than attempting to forge economic deals that will strengthen the economies of both nations, the US has set its sights on using military aid similar to what it offered during the duel over Africa with the Soviet Union. It didn’t work then, and it won’t work now. Despite the long history of ties to Western Europe established during the colonial period, Africa’s militaries aren’t centered around the US-made M16 rifle, they are built around the ubiquitous AK family of rifles produced by the Soviet Union. This is a clear demonstration of the fact that even though the Soviet Union may have lost the Cold War; it won the battle for Africa.
The strategy the US appears to be employing is one that will require large troop presences and the only private sector that will benefit from the strategy will be the same military-industrial complex that has benefited from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. As the dismal current economic situation in the United States shows, profits to this sector do not equate to a benefit for the American people. That could be because the US military contracts to China for a number of items, and counterfeit items made in China have found their way into US weapons systems. Even once outrage brought about legislation to end the practice of farming out critical national security related production, the Obama Administration simply waived those laws. With China benefiting from the production of equipment to be used in the inevitable conflicts that will accompany the US strategy, the real winner will not be the United States but China.
The US strategy in Africa is simply short-sighted and seems to have been developed by defense contractor lobbyists rather than anyone familiar with the geopolitical realities of the continent. Simply providing training and military aid, without assisting in the economic development of the host nations will bring about more disasters like the 2012 Mali coup de tat.
The overthrow of the democratically-elected government in Mali was conducted by Amadou Haya Sanogo. Sanogo traveled to the US no less than six times to receive training at Fort Benning, Camp Pendleton, Lackland Air Force Base, and Quantico, Va. Sanogo is currently facing the death penalty for his alleged role in the mass murders of loyalist soldiers. France has intervened in its former colony after an insurgency followed the overthrow. On May 8th, the French suffered their eighth fatality while trying to reestablish a democratic government. Mali had maintained 20 years of free elections prior to the coup.
While it seems unlikely the US instigated the revolt in Mali, the fact that the leader of the coup was trained by the United States will not be forgotten by the local populace, or by other governments considering accepting US aid.
While the natural resources and cheap labor to be found in Africa are a prize for any global power, the United States cannot expect to gain access to these markets by using a heavy-handed and exploitative strategy. The US attempt to cloak its desire for domination of African markets in humanitarian causes is blatantly transparent. Perhaps more importantly, the strategy will fail because most nations on the continent lack the control systems designed to keep the poor and disenfranchised in line. Attempting to exploit the continent’s riches by offering the ruling elite military support will only increase the income inequality and the likelihood for revolution in nations that accept a US presence. After seizing control, those revolutionaries will find the Chinese government waiting with open arms and a deal to invest in infrastructure and schools that will benefit the poor.