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OPINION - No 'boots on the ground'

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) Despite what I'm about to write in today's blog, my heart is not made of stone. I'm not an uncaring jerk. I'm not void of sympathy and kindness.

There's growing talk that we, the United States of America, need to do more to help find nearly 300 kidnapped schoolgirls in Nigeria. The most-frequent suggestion from the weekend talk shows is that we 'put boots on the group' -- probably Special Ops forces.

That's the wrong choice.

And, indeed, the kidnapping of young girls by Muslim radicals who threaten to kill, rape, or sell them into slavery is horrific. The civilized world should respond. And if the U.S. has technical expertise that can help -- negotiators, intelligence, technical support -- indeed we should. But what about putting America lives at risk? Absolutely not.

The men and women who join our armed forces swear an oath to the Constitution... their specific purpose is to defend the national interests of country. Just what those national interests are is open to debate, and to the judgment of the Commander-in-Chief. But certainly there is no national interest in a terrorist-kidnapping half way around the world. (We can also debate whether there's a national interest in which flag flies of Crimea, or which gang of fundamentalist thugs eventually controls Syria.)

I would love nothing more than the Nigerian schoolgirl kidnapping to have a happy ending. And if our nation plays a role in its conclusion, very good. But I don't know what we would say to the mother and father of an American soldier who lost their life on such a mission. At a soldier's funeral, the presiding officer presents the retired colors to a grieving mother and says "a grateful nation gives thanks for service to our country." It needs to be true. It would not be if our soldiers shed their blood in Nigeria.

Chris Conley
5.12.14

Image: Families of kidnapped school children (Reuters) via wsau.com