Boko Haram and the Imperative of Self-Defense

In Nigeria, radical Islamic group Boko Haram has carried out a series of horrific attacks, culminating in the recent abduction of 234 girls from a boarding school in the city of Chibok. The group allegedly intends to sell the girls into slavery. The Nigerian government pledges to free them, but thus far reports on the ground indicate little has been done while the government awaits foreign assistance.

Provision of security is the most basic justification given for the existence of the state. The state is supposed to protect the population from predators, both foreign and domestic. However, in Nigeria, the state is clearly incapable of fulfilling this function. Indeed, serious questions exist as to whether or not it even wants to; reports confirmed by Amnesty International indicate that the Nigerian army had four hours’ notice that an armed column of Boko Haram militants was en route to Chibok — four hours during which the army did absolutely nothing.

Since the Nigerian government is either unwilling or unable to protect the Nigerian people, perhaps Nigerians should look to the example of the Mexican people, who have armed themselves in self-defense against both predatory cartels and predatory government forces. Of course, the Nigerian government strives to foster dependence on itself among the people, forbidding them to own semi-automatic rifles or handguns of any type — a prohibition it is pathetically unable to enforce on Boko Haram, but one which the guardians of the schoolgirls of Chibok sadly obeyed all too well.

Armed self-defense against terrorism is well-trodden territory this century. The turning point of the American occupation of Iraq was not, as is commonly believed, a product of American tactics, but rather the result of the efforts of armed self-defense groups established by the Iraqis themselves, outside the American-backed government. While these groups were funded by the American military, the initiative to act arose within the traditional tribal groups of the Iraqi people. This model, as well as the example of the people of Mexico’s Michoacan province, can serve as a template for successful self-defense against Boko Haram by the Nigerian people.

What can we do in the West to aid the Nigerian people? The most obvious way to help is of course completely illegal — any Americans who donate weapons to the Nigerians or who go to fight Boko Haram themselves face stiff prison sentences. The recent case of Eric Harroun, a U.S. Army veteran who traveled to Syria to fight against the Assad government, illustrates the absurdity of these laws. Mr. Harroun may go to prison for aiding the same Syrian rebels the Obama administration is trying to aid. Given the laws as they are, there is little within those laws we can do in the West, aside from donating to Nigerian charities and helping bring more pressure on the Nigerian government.

To the people of Nigeria: Your government cannot and will not protect you. Aid from Western governments might address this immediate and painful crisis, but will not be a long-term solution. Rather than waiting for the bureaucrats in Abuja to save you, take steps now to protect yourselves and your children.  Arm yourselves, if you can. Organize watches. And when your government asks you to stop, ask them where they were on 14 April, when your daughters were stolen.

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