If we can’t handle what’s happening in Syria — if we can’t even get the nomenclature right, insisting on calling these desperate refugees “migrants,” as if they had just packed their suitcases and moved north for a change of scene — how can we possibly handle the more chronic, endemic humanitarian crises of extreme poverty and hunger and sickness? Who, exactly, do we think we are, launching another fanciful campaign?
But pause for a second before you projectile vomit, and consider that the emergency in Syria shows exactly why we need to pursue — and achieve — these Global Goals. The evidence of that is all over the Sahel, the band across the north of Africa, where three extremes — extreme poverty, extreme climate, extreme ideology — pose a stark and constant threat. A failure to make progress there could trigger a series of crises that would dwarf what we’re seeing in Syria.
Boko Haram, in northern Nigeria, is well known now in the rest of the world, by virtue of its being horrific and violent, but it’s hardly the only group of extremists that’s active in the Sahel; Al Shabaab, The Lord’s Resistance Army, and Al Qaeda in the Maghreb are as well. CIA analysts — who are not, as a rule, dewy-eyed development types — have looked at northern Nigeria and said that the best way to stop the militants in the long run is to end extreme poverty in the area and create a better, more inclusive education system, one that Muslims feel they have some stake in. When the CIA and anti-poverty activists agree, things must be very right or very wrong!