Africa

Boko Haram is nothing new

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For almost three years, myself and other intelligence analysts, working in a 10th Mountain Division battalion S2 (Security and Intelligence) produced multiple unclassified briefs for the commander concerning the Nigerian Terrorist organization known as Boko Haram.

Boko Haram recently made headlines for holding over 200 school girls captive and threatening to sell them in to slavery. 

Boko Haram was ignored by the media and the State Department, because it was not politically expedient to mention that yet another Islamist terror organization was growing in power. This year in particular Boko Haram set fired to several villages in Nigeria, destroying hundreds of houses and killing dozens of people. Boko Haram’s destruction of a Nigerian air force base in December went almost unnoticed by the media. In one report, I noted that the Nigerian government was incapable of annihilating Boko Haram and that the violence was growing more intense, despite the Nigerian government’s attempts to destroy the terror group. The group even drove an armored personnel carrier during an attack.

Yet the US State Department waited for years to place Boko Haram on its list of terror organizations. It certainly wouldn’t have fit the “al-Qaeda is on the run” narrative” that was so popular at the time, to announce to the world that a powerful terrorist group had arisen in Africa, especially during the time that America was busy obliterating the Libyan government and handing over that country’s hinterlands to brigands and jihadists, cheering the fall of Mubarak in Egypt only to see chaos reign there after his fall, and then seeing US representatives slain in the Benghazi debacle.

Sadly, this isn’t the half of the African and Asian stories, where multiple democracies are falling to pieces. The American withdrawal from the world is leaving a vacuum in its wake. As much as many dream that the world is a better place without a strong hegemon, The Coming Anarchy will see it differently. We need not, and we should not, endeavor to fix every problem with democracy, for democracy, like pie, is only as tasty as its ingredients. But the chaos that even now has begun to swallow Africa and parts of Asia will result in the deaths of thousands, and quite possibly millions. Doing something when we have the chance to stop mass killings is the responsibility of those that are given much. To do otherwise is decadence and cowardice.

The Coming Anarchy

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In 1994, author Robert Kaplan wrote his now famous essay, The Coming Anarchy. The thesis of the essay is that famine, overpopulation, and tribalism have come together in many parts of the world and that it is only a matter of time before a complete collapse of the already spongiform African societies occurs.

Kaplan proved himself a prophet when a few months after the publication of his essay, and in the course of about 100 days, 800,000 people were killed in the fighting between Hutsu and Tutsi factions in Rwanda.

Than again in Sudan, Darfur area. Starting in 2003, government backed militias hunt and kill thousands of black Muslims, and displace thousands more. It’s believed that up to 300,00 civilians have died in that conflict.

Darfur Rebel
Darfur Rebel

One thing that both of the above noted catastrophies have in common, is a flacid  response from the West. When much smaller numbers of people perished in the Kosovo War, NATO commenced controversial air strikes on Yugoslav infrastructures. Europe seemed shocked that it was not immune to The Coming Anarchy.

Results of NATO Airstrikes, Kosovo War
Results of NATO Airstrikes, Kosovo War

Now, the world faces several more problems which will serve to further destabilize.

First, the cynicism concerning American military intervention in any part of the world in the post-Iraq War world. For several reasons, the Iraq War will make the world a more dangerous place, more because of perception than reality. Jihadists throughout the world witnessed the near-defeat of American forces on a modern day battlefield in Iraq. Though modern counter insurgency tactics seemed to quell the uprising, America’s enemies will likely adapt. The Taliban reminds the US that wars are not fought against static foes, but thinking and fluid ones. The level at which the enemy can flow and think will determine how successful they are. The result of the boggled post-invasion plan, endless media hype, and political backlash, is an administration that has made it clear that it wants to juxtapose itself against the Bush Administration’s agenda. This seems to indicate less US intervention abroad and a move away from a Uni-Polar World. This is something that no enemy could have forced militarily upon America; we chose it for ourselves, and it was a decision based on a political meme, not hard analysis.

Already, the US’s enemies are taking advantage of the new political climate. Iran has played the game masterfully. It has appeared to negotiate while all the time advancing its agenda of nuclear armament. North Korea has all but re-ignited war with its southern sister. The torpedoing of the South Korean warship, Cheonan, apparently at the endorsement of Kim Jong Il represents the most piercing aggression in decades between the two countries. The devastation that will occur at the world’s most dangerous border should war break out, is undervalued.

The second factor that almost guarantees Kaplan’s predictions, is the world-wide economic crisis. The crisis further embeds cynical views of Western powers in the minds of Western citizens. Media attention on the West’s failings will again cause the crisis to have massive second and third orders of effects; changes in political hierarchies, economic revolutions and outright revolutions, many of which will be over reactions.

In addition to wounding the western psyche, the crisis has the very real effect of choking off what Cicero called the very sinews of war: endless money.  Budgets will tighten. The European Union, once the post-modern symbol of globalism, is cracking. Instead of a coalition, the Euro Zone sees  cynicism and resentment from the more successful countries, such as Germany and France, directed at the countries they will have to save from death.  Instead of thinking globally, European countries are likely to retract within. dealing with genocide in Africa will be a low priority.

But it is from Africa that the anarchy will spread like a blackening hole in burning parchment. Along with mass starvation (unable to be abated by the cash-strapped West), radical Islam will take an even stronger grip, seizing on the human need to destroy when basic needs are not met.  Islamic states such as Iran will gain world-wide political power again, and with the inevitable nuclear bomb in their arsenal, the West shall become a victim of its own ultimate deterrent: Mutually Assured Destruction. Only the West will face a foe more willing to assure its foe’s annihilation.

Sierra Leone, Darfur, Rwanda. These are lands of the damned.

A "Lost Boy" child soldier
A "Lost Boy" child soldier

A significant lack of political will, a lack of funds, growing populations and a shift in the global psyche will become synergistic. Each will feed on one another. And yet, it is not the West who will suffer most. It will be those that are already suffering who will feel the most pain.

America and even Europe will remain relatively strong. America, buoyed by the  bulwarks of the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean will enjoy the oldest military defence: Geography. But from far off, America will watch in horror as any hopes of geopolitical unanimity disintegrate.

With the devaluation of the nation state comes some blessings. It is unlikely that the horrors of full-scale industrialized war shall be visited upon Europe anytime soon. But instead of a full eruption followed by calm, we have entered a time of constant low-intensity war.

Pax Americana is coming to an end. For some it was never good enough.