America says it cares about those kidnapped girls, but their real interest in Nigeria lies beyond them
The United States has a two-faced policy when it comes to the notion of human rights and other international abuses. After reading the heartbreaking reports of the kidnapping of hundreds of schoolgirls by the terrorist group Boko Haram in Nigeria, I have been connecting some rather interesting dots that many media outlets have not been analyzing.
While the tragedy of the kidnapping is indeed severe, there is a different angle to this that many in the American media have been ignoring. When it comes to the plight of the girls, I sympathize wholeheartedly. Yet, the United States government in the long run doesn’t necessarily care about the fate of these girls. What we do care about is the maintenance of our influence and military reach in Nigeria.
Many might wonder what exactly geopolitics has to do with a humanitarian mission to rescue the kidnapped girls? It has a lot to do with it actually. In Nigeria’s case, geopolitics is a huge reason why we are so concerned about events in Nigeria and other countries in Africa.
American interests extend to many countries across Africa, Nigeria being one of them. The US Military has built a solid relationship with the Nigerian Military, including advisors, weapons, and training tactics. One of the main relationship points (militarily) between the US and Nigeria is the curbing of Islamic Extremist groups in Nigeria, and across Africa. Western economic interests are also very strong in Nigeria, and elsewhere.
Now, American interests and the kidnapping of the schoolgirls is not directly connected, but more or less are byproducts of each other. Nigeria, being a fractionalized state between Muslim and Christian regions, is held together by a mainly autocratic government and heavy military establishment. Nigeria has a very bad human rights record, and has had a bad reputation for decades. Nigeria was run mainly by military regimes up until fairly recently, many of which were backed by the United States.
Even today, Nigeria is not a hub of political and social freedoms. Nigeria, and Uganda, have passed heavy anti-homosexuality laws in their respective countries. While the US has responded to these laws, human rights groups say that the responses have not gone far enough. For example, the military relationship is completely unaffected by the human rights situation.
The US has in fact beefed up its forces in Africa in the past few years, mainly to aid in counter-terrorism, but has also been useful in securing new allies and arms clients for the military-industrial complex, as well as lucrative economic deals for American and Western companies. Many analysts believe that countries like Nigeria, no matter how oppressive, will not be heavily sanctioned because Washington does not want to jeopardize its growing position in Africa. This is not unusual for US policy, but it truly reveals just how two-faced that policy is.
The United States has often held double-standards on human rights when it comes to its clients and allies. Throughout the Cold War the US trumpeted democracy and denounced the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc, but in practice supported many brutally undemocratic and often totalitarian-esque regimes in the developing world. The justification of supporting dictatorships while officially advocating democracy was, and still is, claimed to be driven by a “realist” outlook of foreign policy.
Today, for example, we denounce Russia for defying international norms in Ukraine and use this to label its behavior as wrong enough to throw the kitchen sink at it. Talk of sanctions and full isolation from the world, everything short of all-out war if Russia does not back away from its actions in Ukraine. Russia is lauded as an undemocratic criminal state, unworthy of any respect or close relationship due to its unruly behavior.
Yet anyone who believes that American policy is consistent in this regard, think again. Take Saudi Arabia for example. The Saudis are America’s number one ally in the Middle East after Israel. Our support for the Saudis has been unwavering, and obviously oil revenue has much to do with that. Yet, Saudi Arabia is a near totalitarian theocracy that, in many cases, is worse than what exists in Iran. Human rights abuses are terribly disregarded by the Saudi Monarchy, especially for women under their Sharia system. Yet, in spite of this, we still maintain strong ties with Saudi Arabia.
What might any of the past couple of paragraphs have to do with the issues in Nigeria? Everything! Remember, we are protesting a horrible human rights atrocity in defense of a nation with long histories of human rights abuses. Nigeria today still has questionable rights abuses, especially toward the LGBT community. Yet, we are still funding them and maintaining strong ties with them. The same is also true for other countries, both past and present.
While everyone is appalled at the kidnapping of the schoolgirls in Nigeria, and we should all desire to do everything possible to see them freed, there are other motives at work here. The US wants to ensure its position in Africa cannot be compromised, so all of the blunders and abuses of nations like Nigeria will not be seriously challenged. If the US sends forces to help free the girls, just understand that our interests in Nigeria run deeper than humanitarianism.
The US picks and chooses which nations are to be criticized and which ones are not. We need a friendly Nigeria and Saudi Arabia, so we do not criticize their abuses. If a nation like Iran, Russia, or Venezuela does something out of sync with American policy interests, then it immediately becomes a gross violation of international law and human rights. Nigeria is not a unique case. /but, it does reveal the stark reality of just how flawed American policy perceptions are. If America sends troops or material anywhere, just know that an ulterior motive always rests within range of discovery.