Of Course John McCain Wants To Invade Nigeria Without Their Permission
Senator John McCain wants the U.S. military to take over finding and rescuing those kidnapped Nigerian schoolgirls, even if the Nigerians don’t want us to:
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, according to Sen. John McCain.
“If they knew where they were, I certainly would send in U.S. troops to rescue them, in a New York minute I would, without permission of the host country,” McCain told The Daily Beast on Tuesday. “I wouldn’t be waiting for some kind of permission from some guy named Goodluck Jonathan,” he added, referring to the president of Nigeria.
Of course, it’s not exactly a surprise that McCain holds this view. He’s been a longtime advocate for increased U.S. military activity in crises around the globe—from Syria to Ukraine.
McCain said that if he were the American president, he would already be doing several things to respond to the kidnapping of the over 200 girls by the Nigerian terrorist group that the Obama administration has so far declined to do. Those measures include prepositioning U.S. special forces to be ready to enter Nigeria and rescue the girls if the opportunity arose. He said that the United Nations charter authorized military intervention on behalf of the girls because their abduction rose to the level of “crimes against humanity.”
“The United Nations Charter recognized crimes against humanity, this fits into the category of crimes against humanity, and that gives any nation the license if they can to stop a crime against humanity, the same reason we should have if we could have freed the people at Dachau or Auschwitz,” McCain said.
The U.N. Charter does not explicitly mention crimes against humanity. But the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court Explanatory Memorandum does, stating that crimes against humanity “are particularly odious offenses in that they constitute a serious attack on human dignity or grave humiliation or a degradation of human beings.”
McCain’s declaration Tuesday was an amplification of an interview he gave to CNN last week when he said, “As soon as we knew these young girls were kidnapped… we should have utilized every asset that we have, satellite, drones, any capabilities that we had to go after them.”
This isn’t the least bit surprising, of course. For some time now, John McCain has had this habit of calling for American military action even when it is abundantly clear that he hasn’t really thought through the consequences of what he’s suggesting. From the beginning, he was a strong and vocal supporter of his former rival for the 2000 GOP Nomination’s call for war against Iraq despite the fact that, in retrospect, it was clear that the intelligence being relied upon was questionable at best. During the 2008 Presidential campaign, for example, he criticized both the Bush Administration and then Senator Obama for not more forcefully condemning Russian military actions in the Republic Of Georgia. He was one of the loudest voices for American intervention in the Libyan Civil War, and even criticized the Obama Administration when it finally did act because he didn’t believe that the President had gone far enough in intervening in that war. He spent the better part of the next two years pushing for intervention in the Syrian Civil War including not only providing arms to the rebels, but also establishing a no-fly zone over the country and actively assisting in the removal of the Assad regime. He has, of course, been all over the Ukraine situation advocating American aid to Kiev and more belligerence toward the Russians. Taking all of that into consideration, it’s no surprise that he’d be calling for American military intervention in Nigeria even though it’s rather obvious that he doesn’t really know what’s going on there.
I’ve already discussed many of the potential drawbacks of direct U.S. involvement against Boko Haram in this matter, but as Daniel Larison notes, McCain takes it one step further by essentially saying that we ought to ignore Nigerian sovereignty:
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.
Ishaan Tharoor comments on McCain’s foolish idea as well:
The Nigerian government has requested international assistance, but to assume there would be “nothing but gratitude” is simplistic, if not patronizing. No government, particularly one in a democracy, faced with a noisy opposition, wants to look helpless in the face of foreign powers. Jonathan’s government must do more, but McCain’s bluster hardly helps.
As Larison notes in another post, McCain’s comments here are yet another example of the absolute hubris of Bush-era interventionists, who seem to think that the world will have nothing but thanks for whatever it is that the United States has planned for them. The epitome of this, of course, was the prediction that the American forces that eventually invaded Iraq and toppled Saddam Hussein’s regime would be greeted as “liberators.” At least initially, in the wake of Saddam’s downfall and the celebrations of members of the public that seemed to be true, but the rise of the insurgency quickly made it clear that we were an unwanted presence in the minds of many Iraqis. Additionally, one doubts that civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen who have been subjected to U.S. drone strikes and their aftermath are feeling all too charitable toward the United States right now. In addition to involving us unnecessarily in a conflict in Africa that we most assuredly do not need to be a part of, the course of action suggested by Senator McCain would clearly backfire with the Nigerian public, and probably in other parts of Africa as well, in that it is likely to revive memories of colonialism that aren’t very old in that part of the world.
I suppose the only good thing we can say about this idea is that the Senator is in no position of power to put his ideas in motion, and that the right person lost the 2008 Presidential election.
So, if I understand McCain correctly, going in to Pakistan to nab Osama Bin Laden shows a dangerous level of naivete, but invading Nigeria to free 300 schoolgirls is worth the trouble of creating an international incident.
I really don’t understand McCain’s concept of the national interest.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we had to put up with Henry “Scoop” Jackson for decades. He was known as the Senator from Boeing.
No shit Sherlock – we would have invaded Iran and Syria and probably be occupying Libya..
“Why are we letting all these Islamic militants kidnap girls when, with our superior military technology, we could be the ones kidnapping them?”
I like to think the actual power of the presidency would have tempered McCain’s need to intervene all over the world. It tends to temper the fringe ideological pressures a bit when you have to actually make decisions.
Then again, we invaded Iraq, and a McCain presidency would have kept all the usual suspects in power.
I always wonder about McCain how an ex-Navy guy can be so incapable of looking at a map. Northern Nigeria is 600 miles from the coast. As the Osprey only has a combat range of 400 miles, it would be impossible to support special forces ground troops in the area without Nigerian support, or permission of a neighboring country to station troops for an act of war against the major local power. Of course we could drop a parachute division onto some big airfield that could then support fixed wing resupply, but that definitely is an invasion.
Sounds like McCain’s playing off Obama’s “duty to respond” or whatever it was, combining it with Obama’s Libya policy.
Hey, McCain wasn’t my pick in 2008. He was pretty much picked by the media. Remember the New York Times endorsed him? It was right before they fabricated a story about him having an affair with a lobbyist…
Did McCain really oppose the raid that killed bin Laden? Where did you get that from?
Nigeria is just a bit smaller than California, Arizona and Nevada combined. And unfortunately it is not a Libyan desert. There are a whole lot of places for Boko Haram to hide out.
Now, if you said that we have an absolutely known location of the girls, and we have Nigeria’s support, would I favor sending a team into to effect a rescue? Yes, I would. But lacking those two conditions, I don’t see it.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
McCain was picked by the New York Times? Huh. That must be disturbing news for the Republican voters in all those Republican primaries.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
At least one key difference — of course — is that Obama’s Libya policy was to a large degree shaped by our UN and NATO treaty agreements.
What McCain is discussing is a unilateral move that is not being asked for by either our treaty partners or the government of Nigeria (whom we do not classify as hostile).
So really, there’s pretty much no similarity there.
@Gavrilo: In the 2008 presidential campaign, McCain said Obama was naive in his belief that the US military should intervene and take care of Bin Laden if he were found in Pakistan and the Pakistani government would not arrest him themselves. It was a big deal during the debate season.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Or, you know, the voters.
I’ve never understood the far right’s notion that people who win a free and fair election must have been because the media chose them. Unless Jenos thinks Republicans in general only do what the media tell them to do. In which case, that says a lot about Jenos’s side.
Every time John McCain opens his mouth, I thank providence for Barack Obama. But, to misquote W, is our bloggers learning anything?
I don’t know about Jenos, but Eric F definitely seems to buy into this view (provided you follow his arguments to their logical conclusion).
At best, the argument is that teh realz amerikanz see who the “media picks” and get so depressed that they do their patriotic duty and just don’t vote in anything.
Or at worst, teh realz amerikanz are a bunch of self-hating sheeple that know that the media is lame-stream but still follow its commands without question. Where that leaves Fox News is TBD, but clearly they wield far less power than the NYTs.
Here’s what I’m pretty sure was being referred to. In August of 2007, Obama made the following statement:
Here was McCain’s response in early 2008 election:
While McCain didn’t explicitly state he wouldn’t go after Bin Laden, he makes it clear that at that time he felt there were limits to unilateral action and that we need the permission of the State in question to stage the attack. Seems like that nuance is missing from his current statements.
For the record, Hillary Clinton expressed similar opinions.
Source on all quotes: http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/flashback-2008-mccain-clinton-slam-obama-for-saying-he-d-go-get-bin-laden-in-pakistan-video
We are all relieved that Obama, not him was elected in 2008. However, here is a really chilling thought. Imagine McCain as commander in chief on 9/12/2001. Had he toppled Bush, he would have probably beaten Gore, and the mushroom clouds would ensue..
McCain never met a possible American intervention that he didn’t like. It is, however interesting to speculate what would happen if Obama favored this course of action.
How do you suppose the Republican Party would react if President Obama went to Congress to seek approval to take military action in Nigeria?
Most likely answer:
Of course they’d turn him down and accuse him of being weak for not taking action, right?
It’s simple really:
2 cups of “What is Obama’s position? If he’s for it, I’m agin’ it”
1/2 cup of “What can I say to get my name in the national headlines RIGHT NOW?”
1/2 cup of “How can continue getting invited on the Sunday morning derpfests?”
1/4 cup of “Red meat for the base”
2 tbsp “Old man shouts at cloud”
In front of a microphone, mix all ingredients well. Results should begin pouring forth immediately. Viola!
@Jenos Idanian #13:
From the: “Thanks, I love a good conspiracy theory file”
So, the “media” selected John McCain because they thought he would be an easier opponent for Obama to defeat, then when it appeared that McCain might be a viable opponent with a chance of winning, they concocted a “mistress story” to bring him down?
Well, asking for per@Jenos Idanian #13:
No, sounds like McCain’s doing his usual “tough guy” routine. It’s a pose.
No, they’d pass a bill approving military action in Nigeria and repealing Obama Care, and then say he’s weak when it gets tied up in the Senate.
Of course, how could I have overlooked that possibility?
Ken, I agree, but I think that I’d switch the “old man shouts at cloud” and “I’m agin’ whatever Obama is for!” measurements.
McCain has been shouting at clouds for many years now. He’s reached almost Sterling levels of detachment from reality.
Of course, you’re right. I was thinking you meant McCain criticized the raid after the fact.
But would you understand my notion that people who win a free and fair election are, to a large extend, because they spent the most campaign dollars? IMHO, that’s far more influential than the media.
Of course. It’s not the only factor however. Obama’s vaunted fundraising machine kicked in towards the end of his primary fight with Hillary. Through most of that contest she was better funded (at the beginning) or evenly matched (towards the end).
If there is a better example of Maslow’s hammer (when the only tool you know is a hammer every problem looks like a nail) than John McCain, I don’t know who it would be.
“Never start a land war in
Actually, the part of Nigeria where the abductions took place, in the north-east, is not unlike the Libyan desert. Take a look at it via Google maps and you’ll see what I mean.
The problem is actually a lot larger than that. We have no idea where the kidnap victims are. There’s no guarantee they’re in Nigeria. They may be split up. They may already have been sold. They may be anywhere from Mali to Sudan.
@Dave Schuler: Why do the newspaper reports keep talking about “forests”? Or is it more the sort of scrub that still provides cover?
It certainly looks like scrub to me.
While adding my small voice to those who are overjoyed at the results of the election of ’08 it is only fair to point out that Sen McCain’s relative ‘dovishness’ regarding Pakistan was because he seemed to have a particular affinity for Gen Musharraf (which he must have thought made him seem like a foreign policy senior figure compared to the inexperienced Sen Obama.) I seem to recall both Sen McCain and Pres GWBush couldn’t position themselves any deeper in the Pakistani military’s shadow. Which takes the question of Sen McCain’s and the unfortunate Pres Bush’s foreign policy trustworthiness to a higher level, it seems to me, given how the Pakistani military allowed OBL sanctuary within eye sight of their ‘West Point’.
“We are all Nigerians now.”
“Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb everyone”
The southern reaches of the territories where they are strong looks to range from light scrub to some fairly densely wooded areas, but the topography does look like it can give a fair bit of cover. As you noted, we don’t know where in that area to look, how large the groups we are looking for are, so the density of the forest isn’t the largest obstacle.
The quote makes it sound like McCain is making fun of Goodluck Jonathan’s name. If so, it seems rather immature in the context of seriously proposing invading another country.
His arguments have logical conclusions? When did this start and does it represent a policy change for his own blog?
@James Pearce: You mean he’s doing John425’s “If I knew where you were, I’d kick your ass?” I hope that’s true because that means we have a whole lot less to worry about the next time the country elects a neocon foreign policy interventionist type.
In looking at the location and other aspects of this country the logistics could be a problem as it seems like there is no close air base that could be used. This might be a better mission for another country with the US providing intelligence as to the location of these people and “Captain Koko” or whatever he calls himself. . That being said, I am sure that most Americans would be very happy with a successful rescue of these girls and getting rid of this “Captain Koko” or whatever he calls himself.
Lives saved, and one less terrorist roaming around causing trouble. I can’t see the Nigerian government having any problems with that. They can have take all the credit for it too. And the whole world is a little bit better.
The Pakistanis were just very clever. They knew not to lose sight of a person they couldn’t see because he wasn’t there.
Whatever the vegetation is you’re right, we can’t assume they’re feeling honor bound by national borders. Then the area covered gets into Alaska-sized.
An area which includes the CAR, and if the people just discovering Boko Haram are horrified by Nigeria, the Central African Republic will knock their socks off. This is really not a fight anyone should want to get involved in
I’m fairly conservative. I oppose a lot of what Obama’s doing. But some days i am soooo glad we didn’t elect that idiot President.
A bunch other conservatives made similar statements. I had fun compiling those statements a couple of years ago. Link.
Good old John McCain! He can always be relied upon to support any military action anywhere, regardless of the cost in lives and money, and regardless of the lack of common sense in his approach. Apparently his time in the Navy really has taught him nothing of value. He is a fool to the last.
Ironically, in the 2008 debates McCain specifically positioned his veteran/POW status as appreciating that cost:
Silly man. You’re falling for that Soros funded propaganda intended to fool you into believing that maybe our culture isn’t as enlightened as we think!
@Matt Bernius: Granted that his family has served in Iraq or Afghanistan BUT he is still much too eager to send our military on any fool’s errand, anywhere. I am from a family which has served this country since the Second World War and
I am well aware of the inherent risks in employing our military without good cause. McCain and his pal Graham always seem to be looking for reasons for us to find a military solution to each problem, as though NOT doing so implies that we are cowards. Sad commentary on senior Congressmen who have served in the military and should know better.
How many wars would be in now had he been elected, with Sarah an inch away?
McCain is a blowhard. Always has been. It’s one of the reasons the media liked him (and while Jenos took it too far, the media *did* like him and it helped him).
It’s a sad thing, but our culture rewards blowhards. My father (a Brit, WWII vet) has been pointing out the (in his view) odd American obsession with acting tough, and our almost worshipful response to Tough Guyz all my life. It’s downright bizarre, really, from an outsider’s perspective. Once you see it, you see it freaking everywhere. Truck commercials. Sporting events & commentary. Politics.
It’s a sickness. There are worse sicknesses, obviously. Still. Not good.
@Rob in CT: Read comments made by the Brits about Yankee pilots in WWI. No wonder a lot of the US pilots didn’t survive.
@Rob in CT: I don’t know how, or really if, Britain and Europe avoid it. I sometimes think we killed off the buffalo and the Indians too soon. We have a cowboy culture with no way to prove you’re a man except to buy a big truck or a big gun.
………………..OWA TABOO BYAM!…………..
Has been my mantra ever since I escaped from the Hare Krishnas.
Back to the topic at hand: there is pretty much as much legal justification for going into Nigeria without their government’s assent as there was for Barry’s Excellent Libyan Adventure.
There is more moral justification for a Nigerian incursion than there was for Barry’s Excellent Libyan Adventure.
And as far as pragmatic comparison of the Boko Haram case and the Bin Laden raid… I would note that the Nigerian situation is a far more imminent situation than Bin Laden, as that raid was more a matter of reprisal. Also, Nigeria isn’t a nuclear power.
Can I just point out something that’s been bugging me?
Who would give permission to be invaded? Who would ask permission to invade someone? Isn’t the whole point of invading that you don’t ask permission?
@Jenos Idanian #13:
As you and others have pointed out Nigeria is an ally. In Libya the government was the problem. That makes the two rather different.
Let’s say that the IRA makes a big comeback and kidnaps 200 British protestant school girls and nobody knows where they are. The British parliament is paralyzed with indecision. They have not asked for our assistance. Do you argue in that case that we should go in without the government’s permission? If not, why not?
@Tillman: “Manifest Destiny Manifest Destiny”
@Grewgills: As you and others have pointed out Nigeria is an ally. In Libya the government was the problem. That makes the two rather different.
Libya’s government, under Khadaffy, wasn’t much of a problem to the world, thanks to Bush. He’d been brought to heel quite nicely, and at little cost.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Nice to see you in full evasion mode. Why not answer the substance?
Would you be pushing for us to go in to England for a rescue operation sans their approval and if not why not?
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Which of course also leaves out that we have no idea where they are. It appears you are looking at this as the beginnings of an action movie rather than a real world situation.
MSN and other news reports: “World Leaders Vow Way Against Bobo” (or whatever he calls himself. Well now, it seems things have changed.
That should read “Vow War Against”
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Depends what “legal” you are talking about. If you are looking at international law, you are as usual completely wrong. In the case of Libya, there were a number of National and UN resolutions passed which created a No-Fly zone, which NATO then enforced.
Further, the US and other countries were invited to participate by the Libyan rebels (who would eventually become the current government).
For more on the treaty and UN action that led up to the intervention, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_military_intervention_in_Libya
Again, no such resolutions or invitations have been made by the UN or the current Nigerian government.
On the US side, there’s more ambiguity as this is tied up with the War Powers Act. The jury is out on this — some say it did, others say it didn’t, and others (including every president since the Act was enacted) say it doesn’t matter because the act is unconstitutional in the first place. BTW, even within Congress the Jury is out on this matter. When pushed in 2011 John Boehner admitted that “Legally, they’ve met their requirements [under] the War Powers Act.”
For a solid summary of all the arguments on this topic, I recommend:
I’d love an explanation of this logic beyond your own personal bias set forth as “fact.”
BTW, it’s worth nothing that politicians on both sides discussed the Moral imperative of the Libyan intervention. See Boehner: “[the United States] has a moral obligation to stand with those who seek freedom from oppression and self-government for their people” (source: http://www.politico.com/blogs/glennthrush/0311/Boehner_backs_Obama_on_Libya_but_wants_more_info_on_US_mission.html )
@Matt Bernius: So, just what were the differences between the UN resolutions on Libya and those on Iraq?
The international legal matters take a back seat to US law in regards to US intervention, as the UN resolutions didn’t require action, but allowed it.
And Obama’s attitude towards the War Powers Act was completely unprecedented. Every other president prior played the same game: they said that the Act was unconstitutional and not binding, but then followed it. The trick: say they are acting “consistent with” and not “in compliance with” — the difference being that they are NOT acknowledging its authority.
With Obama, he simply ignored it and announced that it didn’t apply in Libya because… well, because he said it didn’t. Which was a contrast with his attitude towards the War Powers Act when he was in the Senate.
There must be some special ingredients in the air in the White House. How many Presidents have awarded themselves extraordinary powers once they are inaugurated? Time to reign in the arrogance by Constitutional means. It is no longer enough to “trust” the ethics and common sense of the person in the position of President. Obama and certainly Bush taught us that. The President and his/her Administration are employees of the American people, not the other way around.
@Jenos Idanian #13:
Given that you led with an off topic nonsequitur, I’ll take that you were unable to find a way to disagree with my point.
To that point:
So from an international perspective, if the UN resolution *allowed* action (by your own admission) then there was a international legal precedent for action. Remember your original point was:
Thanks for agreeing with me when I wrote that there was already *more* international legal precedence for Libyan intervention than any rescue effort that McCain was proposing. Which of course soundly disproves your original comment.
Onto the topic of US law
I don’t believe I suggested otherwise.
Hardly. Actually, the president thus far who has most violated the act was Clinton — as he continued the actions in Kosovo *past* the 60 day limit of the act.
Beyond that, you continue to ignore the fact that by the accounts of Congressional Leadership (including the Congressional Leader of the Opposition Party) the Obama Administration was within the bounds of the act (Bohner and company went so far as to block a bill from Dennis Kucinich that would have used the act to withdraw troops from Libya).
Here’s specifically what Boehner said on the topic:
Boehner would eventually reverse his position based on internal party pressure. But clearly, at the beginning of the engagement he [begrudgingly] felt the administration had done what it needed to do (it other words, he was for it before he was against it).
So again, I take your continued shifts of topic as the closest you’ll get to admitting you were wrong. I’m glad you see your errors.
 – For the record, you are entirely correct in saying that there was as much international legal support for Libya as there was for Iraq. That also has no bearing on this topic.