In the movie “The Magnificent Seven,” a collection of hired American gunslingers defend a poor Mexican village from the predation of a gang of Banditos, led by Calvera, who was portrayed by actor Eli Wallach.
The Mexican bandits had no interest in governing the village, or providing peace, order and justice. They only wanted to take: food and money, primarily.
If Calvera had to justify what he did to the villagers, he vaguely referred to an ongoing Mexican revolution and the need for his gang to survive for the revolution to continue. Calvera thinks of himself as the father of the gang, who has to provide for his men. To him, the products of the village are his own crop to reap.
The Nigerian group Boko Haram operates a lot like Calvera’s gang of bandits. Members take from the peaceable people around them for the benefit of the gang, in the name of some higher purpose. In no instance is Boko Haram offering a government to the people it terrorizes, nor would it be competent to run a civil government with law, order and justice should it attempt to do so.
Boko Haram is in the news of late because it abducted 276 Nigerian schoolgirls and is in the process of selling them off as wives to Muslim tribesmen, or holding them for ransom. Perhaps some of the girls were married off to gang members. The strategic end served by the abduction of these girls was the prosperity of the gang.
A lot has been made recently of the connection between Boko Haram and other terrorist groups linked to al-Qaida. The ostensible political aim of Boko Haram is the imposition of an Islamic Caliphate in Nigeria, the imposition of Sharia law and the elimination of Western education from that country. The group seems to share a common ideology with al-Qaida, which is linked further to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But the other thing Boko Haram has in common with al-Qaida is the need to survive. Both groups need money, and in addition to money, Boko Haram needs food, weapons and ammunition. Its men, who live in the African bush, need women. Consequently, a lot of criminal activity takes place in the name of religion. Without this criminal activity, Boko Haram could not survive. Its men would have to find sustenance elsewhere.
The imposition of the kind of rule advocated by Boko Haram is opposed even by other Muslims in Nigeria. And given that Nigeria is fairly evenly divided between Christian and Muslim, the likelihood of a happy and successful political regime in Nigeria of a kind advocated by Boko Haram is remote. The political program it advocates is not serious. Its alleged political aims have no place in a serious discussion of what to do about the gang.
The purpose of Boko Haram is to fulfill the psychopathic needs of its leadership. The men of the gang find gratification of their own personal wants and needs in the gang’s activities. Opportunities for murder, rape, adventure, a sense of belonging and purpose, as well as food and pay are positive motivators for gang membership and retention. What political program is advocated serves to quell any pangs of conscience that might arise in the course of violence.
Because of its strength and organization, the methods of normal law enforcement will not prevail against the gang. Stronger measures, the methods of war, are called for. This situation creates a problem for those addicted to positive law, because positive law was developed in and for the framework of civil peace, and positive law devotees are constitutionally unable to admit the boundaries of their doctrine.
Like what happened to Calvera and his men, Boko Haram needs to be hunted down and slain in a military operation. Its members are not protected by the laws of war. They are, and ought to be declared, outlaws in the purest sense of that term: the protection of the law does not apply to them.
What Magnificent Seven will undertake the operation?
Vincent J. Curtis is a freelance writer on military affairs who has corresponded for The Buffalo News from Iraq, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Afghanistan, where he was embedded with U.S. troops in 2010.