The deteriorating situation in northeastern Nigeria created by attacks of a violent Islamist organization, Boko Haram, bears U.S. watching but not U.S. involvement.
Most of the attacks by the group trying to overthrow the government center around the city of Maiduguri and are directed against schools and schoolchildren, who, in the eyes of Boko Haram, represent anti-Islamic government activity that should be extirpated.
The killings have several disturbing aspects. First is their sheer number. Boko Haram has claimed thousands of lives since 2009, including at least 74 people killed in the past three weekends. Fifty-nine children died after the militant group set fire to their boarding school on Feb. 24.
Second, the inability of Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and his armed forces to subdue Boko Haram is shameful. The country has an impressive 500,000 troops, but they have either avoided battle with the militants or fled when encountering them. Senior military officers instead devote their time and energy to skimming off the country’s oil wealth.
Third, northeast Nigeria borders on Cameroon, Chad and Niger. This means that the disorder could spread easily to the neighbors, turning Nigeria’s national problem into a regional one. Each of the countries could also serve as a refuge for Boko Haram forces evading Nigerian efforts to bring them under control.
None of this is an American problem, however, and it should not become an excuse for U.S. military involvement in that part of West Africa. Mr. Jonathan needs to use his armed forces to put Boko Haram out of business and he must coordinate with the presidents of Cameroon, Chad and Niger to mount a regional security effort.
The matter becomes increasingly urgent as the pace of the organization’s attacks rises. It must be dealt with promptly before it gets any worse.