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Surprising No One, McCain Wants U.S. Military Action in Nigeria

Because he hasn’t already done enough to become a parody of himself, John McCain favors [1] U.S. military action against Boko Haram:

The United States should send in special forces to rescue the hundreds of girls kidnapped by Boko Haram—whether the Nigerian government gives permission or not [bold mine-DL], according to Sen. John McCain.

This would be a questionable thing to do even if Nigeria’s government requested direct U.S. involvement in a rescue attempt, but to be willing to send U.S. forces into another country without permission from a mostly cooperative government is unduly reckless even by McCain’s low standards. It takes a great deal for granted to assume that the mission would be successful with minimal loss of life for the captives and U.S. forces. Obviously nothing would be gained from a botched or failed raid, especially if it resulted in the deaths of many of the innocents held captive. Even a successful raid would carry substantial risks, and those risks would be even greater if this were done without the Nigerian government’s cooperation. It will come as news to McCain, but most governments around the world would not be pleased to be shown up by a foreign power on their own soil without their permission. Whether the mission was a success or not, sending U.S. forces where they are not invited would have the potential to create significant resentment.

Beyond that, making a rescue attempt could trigger new attacks resulting in more civilian deaths, and it could put U.S. firms and citizens at greater risk from reprisals in the future. Even a successful rescue could complicate the government’s ability to negotiate a settlement, and could perversely prolong the conflict. The U.S. can provide Nigeria with assistance in this matter up to a point, but resolving this problem is primarily their government’s responsibility and one that the U.S. shouldn’t be seeking to assume for itself. The U.S. military doesn’t exist either to support or police other countries’ insurgencies, and we should accordingly be very wary of any proposal to use any part of it in that way.

26 Comments (Open | Close)

26 Comments To "Surprising No One, McCain Wants U.S. Military Action in Nigeria"

#1 Comment By BenSix On May 13, 2014 @ 5:27 pm

Is there a country John McCain does not want to invade? I don’t think he’s mentioned Israel, or the United Kingdom, but if the Scots vote “yes” in the Autumn I fear that he will want to barge in there to liberate them from Alex Salmond.

#2 Comment By collin On May 13, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

We are all Freedonias Now!

Can we blame this on not bombing Syria also?

#3 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 13, 2014 @ 6:00 pm

Well, what we have here is women’s rights threatened by Islam. What more does an imperialist Western power need to justify invasion, war, occupation, neo colonialism and so on?

#4 Comment By Everlos On May 13, 2014 @ 6:05 pm

I cannot understand why this blowhard continually appears on Sunday political shows and is asked for his opinion on anything to do with foreign policy. At what point will people realize he’s quite obviously mentally ill or grotesquely incompetant to comment on the subject?

#5 Comment By Michael Sheridan On May 13, 2014 @ 6:41 pm

Not that long ago, back in July of 2008, Larry King interviewed John McCain on CNN. King asked him, “If you were president and knew that bin Laden was in Pakistan, you know where, would you have U.S. forces go in after him?”

McCain said no:

“Larry, I’m not going to go there and here’s why: because Pakistan is a sovereign nation.”

Tragic, awful, and horrible as the crime Boko Haram has committed unquestionably is, what has happened to John McCain’s respect for the sovereignty of foreign powers? Back then we had far more at stake as a nation in stopping Osama Bin Laden, who was responsible for thousands of deaths, some of them American, than we would now were we to send military forces to retrieve those girls against the wishes of the Nigerian government. As a human being, I want very, very bad things to happen to Boko Haram. As a citizen, I don’t think we should be the ones to unilaterally do them.

#6 Comment By EngineerScotty On May 13, 2014 @ 6:55 pm

Somebody’s been watching Team America: World Police too often.

#7 Comment By Jay C On May 13, 2014 @ 7:37 pm


At what point will people realize he’s quite obviously mentally ill or grotesquely incompetant to comment on the subject?

For the public, that’s probably already largely happened: unfortunately, for the sad excuse for a national media we have in this country, the answer is probably “Never”.

#8 Comment By AnotherBeliever On May 13, 2014 @ 8:20 pm

The major difference between the raid in Pakistan to kill Bin Laden is that in that case the military members were oath sworn to lay down their lives if necessary. Their lives were at our national disposal. Additionally, there would be little mourning anyone inside that compound who resisted and got killed because of it. Add to that the fact that Pakistan’s government has been, shall we say mixed, in its treatment of some of the people behind the 9/11 attacks. You can argue whether or not it was a good idea to launch that raid. It turned out successful, and most of us have a degree of all’s well that ends well on that one.

By contrast, the lives of those 230 girls are not ours to risk. There’s a very real danger that their location will be set up as a trap to ambush any security forces who come in. Or worse, the girls could themselves be booby trapped. The absolute utmost caution is required when 200 young lives hang in the balance. Every bit of intelligence needs painstaking corroboration. The potential downsides are simply dire. If Nigeria wants our help, I doubt we would deny them it. But the responsibility for the lives of these girls lies with their community and nation. It’s their call, through and through. We can’t make the same kinds of risk analysis that we could for our own troops, civilians, and adversaries. And if France, or South Africa, or the locals have a better plan, then all the better. This is no place for pride or one-ups-manship.

#9 Comment By Norwegian-Romanian On May 13, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

I guess we can add Nigeria to this list then:


#10 Comment By George Taylor On May 13, 2014 @ 9:26 pm

Just replace the Slim Pickens character with John McCain [3]

#11 Comment By TomB On May 14, 2014 @ 12:50 am

I think it’s just a matter of circumstances that leads to the overly-great attention to just John McCain here. If, say, the Boko Haram were going about *murdering* little girls I have no doubt you’d see him being joined by any number of others.

As I said some time ago in a thread on a related issue, such “Rwanda-like” situations are gonna prove to be the toughest for us to stay out of.

Sam Powers may not be arguing for intervention right here and now, and so long as she’s part of an administration resisting intervention she can be counted on to betray what she wrote before she was. But she and Susan Rice can also be counted on as advocating intervention, and there’s ever more people like them in our ruling class now.

Thus, this might seem rather outre by McCain, but I don’t for a moment believe that if the circumstances were just a little different, instead of talking about McCain we’d be talking of lots and lots of others in power.

#12 Comment By HeartRight On May 14, 2014 @ 5:32 am


#13 Comment By Charlieford On May 14, 2014 @ 8:33 am

Maybe if we bomb Damascus, Boko Haram will return the girls? It’s worth a try, isn’t it? Even if it doesn’t work, well, at least we’ve bombed Damascus? Half a loaf is better than none, right?

Wait. I’m thinking it all goes back to 1951: Our fall from grace.

What we need to do is press ahead to the Yalu River, unify and democratize the Korean peninsula, and then the world will fall into place. They’ll know we mean business, then!

#14 Comment By Mike On May 14, 2014 @ 8:40 am

As much as I think our current President is one of the poorest leaders we’ve seen, McCain keeps showing us the nation made the right choice in 2008. Definitely a lesser of two evils election. We could not have sustained all the military action McCain would have committed us to.

#15 Comment By icarusr On May 14, 2014 @ 10:03 am

But we’re all NigerGeorgukrainians, don’t you know. And we really do have to destroy the village, the city, the country, in order to save it. Or something. (Now let’s all sing “Bomb Bomb Bomb Boko” to the tune of the Beach Boys ….)

On a more serious note – and, honestly, I find it impossible to be serious about Johnny Mac, seeing as he is now an Onion version of an SNL parody of a Mad cartoon of Grampa Simpsons as C-in-C – does he even know where Nigeria is? About the topography of North Eastern Nigeria? Has he thought about the logistics of invasion? About where to mass troops? And how does he propose that the US invade Nigeria, bomb Syria and face off Russia in the same week? Isn’t the first principle of a military adventur- er, I mean, operation, concentration of force? (Play Risk once and you understand the principle.) How does he propose to pay for the operation? By cutting taxes on the rich? (No, this is not a typo: Republicans, as we know, pay for military operations not by raising funds but by reducing them and borrowing money.)

I mean, at this stage, this is the equivalent of Uncle Jack bellowing in his underwear on a neighbour’s porch; should Bomber McCain not be committed by now?

#16 Comment By icarusr On May 14, 2014 @ 10:06 am


“As I said some time ago in a thread on a related issue, such “Rwanda-like” situations are gonna prove to be the toughest for us to stay out of.”

Rwanda: genocidal mania leading to the death of 800,000, that built on another genocidal mania the year before with deaths of up to 400,000, all more or less aided and abetted by outside forces.

Boko: 230 school girls have been abducted and they appear to be mostly safe so far.

To describe Boko as “Rwanda-like” appears to me to be somewhat of an exaggeration.

#17 Comment By simon94022 On May 14, 2014 @ 10:35 am

Serious question: Are Senator McCain’s faculties intact?

#18 Comment By Escher On May 14, 2014 @ 11:02 am

How about invading Egypt, where hundreds (if not thousands) have been killed by the military junta, and where the courts are sentencing people to death in batches of 600? Wait – they are actually restoring democracy.

#19 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 14, 2014 @ 11:38 am


I think the focus on McCain is on account of his status as a Man Who Might Have Been President, a long term, influential Senator, a household name, a man considered to be a war hero and so forth. None of the other war mongers quite fit that bill.

Then too, while the run of the ranch neo cons have their pet causes and the lib interventionists like Power have theirs, Johnny Mac seems to be Johnny on the Spot in EVERY possible crises. He wants intervention everywhere, where the other neo cons want it, sure, but also where the lib interventionists want it too, and then, on top of that, in some places where he really does seem to be the only person calling for it.

#20 Comment By Duncan On May 14, 2014 @ 11:41 am

Jay C: For the public, that’s probably already largely happened…

Remember, John McCain is an elected official. Some significant part of the public in his home state keeps sending him to the Senate, term after term.

#21 Comment By James Canning On May 14, 2014 @ 1:29 pm

What utter stupidity for John McCain to call for US military action in Nigeria WITHOUT approval of the government of the country!
And, of course, such stupidity comes as no surprise.

#22 Comment By cameyer On May 14, 2014 @ 4:50 pm

You are too soft here. “a questionable thing to do”, “could” trigger more attacks.

#23 Comment By Warren Bajan On May 14, 2014 @ 7:55 pm

Try to see it from McCain’s perspective. The Libya bombing helped cause the regional instability that made things worse in Nigeria. Intervention there will make it worse elsewhere so there will be someplace Else to intervene. Its All Good!

#24 Comment By Just Dropping By On May 14, 2014 @ 8:30 pm

In terms of McCain’s willingness to use force without regard to the concerns of friendly governments, I think it’s surprisingly infrequently remarked that in 2003 McCain seemingly advocated in a Weekly Standard piece for a unilateral US attack on North Korea over possible objections by South Korea:

The use of military force to defend vital American security interests must always be a last resort, as it is in this crisis. But if we fail to achieve the international cooperation necessary to end this threat, then the countries in the region should know with certainty that while they may risk their own populations, the United States will do whatever it must to guarantee the security of the American people. And spare us the usual lectures about American unilateralism. We would prefer the company of North Korea’s neighbors, but we will make do without it if we must.


#25 Comment By TomB On May 14, 2014 @ 11:14 pm

@ icarusr:

By “Rwanda-like” I meant matters having more of a pure humanitarian flavor, not necessarily on the same scale. And I think my past prediction concerning our relatively greater susceptibility to being drawn into such matters stands. While perhaps just because McCain is advocating same with the Boko Haram means nothing because … well, he’s McCain, note that you’re not seem many if any calling him nuts for same which he clearly is. The idea of being drawn into some African jungle adventure, with the great risk of *causing* the slaughter of those girls is just nuts if you ask me. And yet nobody seems to be laughing at McCain. And let’s just see where the discussion goes here. After all aren’t lots already talking about giving Nigeria “support” in combatting these people? And we’ve all seen that’s how lot of interventions start, right? With the fewer of our people initially being seen as necessary allowing that to more easily slip under the radar than any bigger involvement, like say in Ukraine, no?

@ philadelphialawyer:

As always good points all.

#26 Comment By Tim D. On May 14, 2014 @ 11:26 pm

And this is why McCain isn’t president.