Africa is far away and hard for many Americans to care much about, except maybe when some lethal disease with a weird name threatens to export itself over here.
African societies, from the little Americans hear about them from its sadly-shrunken news media, seem riven with tribal and factional strife, murders, kidnappings, massacres in places that are difficult to pronounce and hard to, well, place mentally.
There’s a lot of that developing over there now. Groups like Boko Haram marauding across national borders to steal and pillage, to rape, kidnap and kill crowds because, it seems, they can. Terrorism does that.
The last decade has witnessed an historic resurgence in terrorism there. Prime among them in sub-Saharan African is ISIS. Ruthless refugees from that murderous group have fled from Syria and Iraq and the military annihilation they finally faced from the forces of the U.S. and its allies.
ISIS was spawned there when the Obama-Biden administration withdrew American troops in 2011. The cover story was the status of forces agreement was not renewed by Iraq. The truth, however, was the administration’s disinterest in negotiating a new one because Afghanistan was the real war Obama wanted to pursue.
The power vacuum in Iraq and eastern Syria was fertile soil for the bloody mayhem of ISIS whose minions killed hundreds of thousands until Donald Trump unleashed Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to shred Obama’s crippling rules of engagement.
Now. the contagion of its terrorism is infecting more than a half dozen countries whose weak national unity, extreme poverty and poor military present easy targets. ISIS can dart into one country, attack and find easy immediate sanctuary in any of several neighboring lands.
Jordan Cope, a Middle Eastern expert, writes in the National Interest:
Embedding at the cross borders of failing countries, ISIS has achieved near untouchability. With no Sub-Saharan government able to contain its expansion in a resource-rich area, the West, whatever its response, must urgently react before ISIS can multiply its capabilities and international reach…
To be sure, it’s all very far away presenting no immediate domestic dangers. Its interest and seeming import pale in comparison to the more proximate domestic news events of an infant Washington administration confronting an economy crippled by a microscopic virus and governments’ heavy-handed responses to its spread.
We could continue to ignore such simmering insurgencies and probably will, given the nation’s widespread turmoil fatigue. Who wants to look for trouble these days?
There are not many left, but people who view history as a handy forecaster of the future might recall a previous set of insurgencies in sub-Saharan Africa that attracted little U.S. interest at the time. Murder, massacres, bombings perpetrated by an inchoate gang of terrorists with unpronounceable names.
Those little-known folks in sub-Saharan Africa drew minimal American attention in the late 1990’s because they were in far-away places that had virtually no impact on American lives. They were, in fact, mastering their clandestine, murderous trade before going international.
After 9/11, they became much better known as al Qaeda. Their leader was Osama bin Laden. And America’s current president, then vice president, cast the lone dissenting vote against going after him in 2011.