America should be more sensitive to the fact that Nigeria feels that unprecedented firepower is required to protect itself and to prevent their country from being overrun by radical jihadists. We ourselves have spent over a decade in large-scale wars overseas, disrupting terrorist networks and overwhelming them through force regimes that harbored groups threatening our national security.
The United States has a vital strategic interest in ensuring that al-Qaeda cannot establish strong footholds in Africa, establishing bases of operation that in the short-term may target mostly Africans but in the long-term come back to harm us as well.
Given the strategic implications of the fight now underway in Nigeria, the United States should be looking for additional ways to assist instead of publicly chiding the government there. America is correct to want human rights respected even as fighting continues, but many legitimate questions can be raised as to whether we have done the same in battle when our soldiers and our citizens have been the ones under fire.
Regardless, any concerns America may have about Nigeria would be better hashed out among the allies in private. Instead of making critical statements in the presence of journalists, whose reports then filter out with rapid speed all across the globe and become unhelpful headlines, we should look to influence Nigeria’s behavior through building trust and credibility. Ironically, that is the same recipe for success that America is recommending to the leadership in Abuja as it confronts the challenges of succeeding on the battlefield against terrorists while simultaneously winning over hearts and minds.
In private we should be frank with our allies about what we expect, but when we embarrass them publicly we work against our own interests by emboldening the terrorists. Rather than leading Boko Haram to question the degree to which America stands with Nigeria, we should be sending the strong message that Nigeria’s war on terrorism is supported by the greatest military force on the planet.
Nigeria is fighting an existential battle to keep its nation intact and to combat the same twisted and radical Islamist terrorism which has targeted the United States and continues to threaten our national security. America should give Nigeria all the help it can.