The World

A Country Is in the News. Let’s Invade it. 

Some guy.

Photo by THIERRY CHARLIER/AFP/Getty Images

Sen. John McCain tells Josh Rogin of the Daily Beast that the U.S. should, if necessary, use unilateral military force to rescue the kidnapped girls in Nigeria:

“If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country… I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan.”

First of all, for all his many faults, Goodluck Jonathan is the president of the largest country in Africa, not “some guy” with a funny name. (I can’t wait until Abdullah Abdullah is president of Afghanistan.)

McCain argues that the hostage crisis is a humanitarian atrocity that rises to a level that allows the U.S. to simply ignore Nigerian sovereignty. Even conceding that argument and ignoring the fact that that rescue attempts by foreign militaries against Boko Haram have ended in tragedy for the hostages, I find it hard to take the argument of people like McCain and Piers Morgan in the “why haven’t we just sent in Delta Force to kill the bastards” camp seriously given that they often seem less motivated by the scale of the atrocity than the amount of media coverage it receives.

Prior to this kidnapping, at least 1,500 Nigerians were killed by Boko Haram in just the past year without major calls in the United States for intervention. Even the hostage crisis itself flew under the radar for weeks before a global social media campaign drew the American media’s interest. Is the only reason that no one in Washington is calling for military action to rescue the estimated 6,000 child soldiers of the Central African Republic that they don’t have a hashtag yet?

Now that it’s leading cable news, it’s obviously a problem that could be solved if only the U.S. were willing to use more military force and weren’t so concerned about what other governments thought. (U.S. military force, by the way, has a decidedly mixed track record in efforts to neutralize infamous African militias.)

A few days ago, my editor, Will Dobson, and I posted a short dialogue over at Slate Plus about the perception that the U.S. media pays too little attention to foreign news. Seeing stories like this one processed into outrage grist sometimes makes me wish it paid even less.