By Peter Nealen
So, after first apparently thinking that a Twitter campaign under the hashtag “United for Ukraine” was going to do anything to dissuade Vladimir Putin and his proxies in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine from pursuing their agenda, and having the idiocy of this idea become immediately apparent to anyone who didn’t have their heads firmly buried in their fourth point of contact, now another Twitter campaign has been started, this time by the First Lady, to “Bring Back Our Girls,” referring to the 200+ schoolgirls kidnapped in Nigeria by Boko Haram over three weeks ago.
The announcement essentially went out in the form of a picture of Michelle Obama with a sad face holding a hand-written sign with “#BringBackOurGirls” on it.
If “#UnitedForUkraine” was useless, this is orders of magnitude worse.
Tell me that stain on the shorts of humanity even knows or cares what Twitter is, much less that he’s going to give half a second’s consideration to lots of “caring” Westerners, whom he despises anyway, Twittering at him to let the girls go.
This is why American influence is on the decline, and why the Pax Americana is over. We live in a society so sheltered, so coddled, so told from birth that their every opinion matters, that we now have a government that thinks the rest of the world cares as much about social media as they do. Secretary of State John Kerry apparently actually thinks that the Russians care what we think and say about them, as his first response when asked what to do about the Russian power-play in Ukraine was “opprobrium.”
Here’s a news flash, folks: They do not care. Your opinion is less than worthless to these people. The fact that you sit in a comfortable chair or on your couch sending little 140-character harsh messages to your little circle of friends about what they are doing is laughable to them, or it would be if they even took notice that you’re doing it. Guess what? The “rest of the world” that you said was so important when you could use it as a political hammer against actual action in Afghanistan and Iraq doesn’t live in the same sheltered, computer/tablet/phone-centric bubble that you do. Actions matter, not words.
Some have argued that these social media campaigns are to gin up domestic support for long, hard, expensive campaigns. That might have some merit if this administration has shown any sign whatsoever of backing up their rash words with action. So far, they haven’t, not where foreign policy is involved.
Leaving aside the Ukrainian situation, which continues to get more violent, however many #UnitedForUkraine tweets go out (though that’s probably no longer “trending” or whatever the term is), let’s look at Nigeria.
The girls were taken on April 14. According to the best information available online, there is no credible intelligence as to their location, or even that they’re in the same place at the moment. For all the protests in Lagos, the Nigerian military is about as effective as any other in Sub-Saharan Africa, and probably isn’t going to meet with a lot of cooperation, even from the Hausa and Fulani people who otherwise despise Boko Haram, mainly because Nigeria is one of the most corrupt nations in West Africa, and the Army’s been known to gun down anyone wearing traditional Muslim garb in their crackdown on Boko Haram. We can pour money into the country (and we are; Nigeria is considered the US’ primary strategic partner in West Africa), but most of it is probably going to wind up in uninvolved pockets, with no appreciable change in operations at the pointy end. We could put a bounty on Abubakar Shekau’s head…oh, wait, we already did that, to the tune of $7 million, but for having been reported dead several times before, he’s still out there.
“Send in the SEALs or Delta to do a raid!” Apparently you don’t know just how complicated that particular request is. You’ve got to have a set target before you can raid it. They haven’t been able to find Shekau in the last five years, and it’s been almost a year since the State Department got around to declaring Boko Haram a terrorist organization. How much intelligence infrastructure do we really have on the ground? If we don’t have enough to have found the girls in the three weeks since they were taken, what are the odds of finding them before they are sold? HUMINT networks take time to build.
But none of the people sending tweets or posting selfies of themselves holding disapproving signs think about this kind of thing. Neither do they care. The only thing they give a damn about is feeling good about themselves for “doing something” even though they aren’t actually doing anything. That’s bad enough when it’s a bunch of dumbass college kids doing it. When it’s people whose job is foreign policy, its more than embarrassing; it’s actually harmful to our credibility.
Welcome to the age of official narcissism.