In April 2014, the hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons was on a yacht cruising in the Caribbean when he tweeted about the 276 girls kidnapped by the terrorist group Boko Haram from a secondary school in Chibok, northeastern Nigeria. The hashtag he copied lit a matchstick that inflamed the world. Politicians and celebrities followed suit and shared the viral campaign, #BringBackOurGirls.
It was perhaps the first time a single hashtag had driven a multilateral military intervention. Yet the combined intelligence capabilities of seven powerful nations—the United States, Britain, Australia, Canada, France, Japan, and Israel—failed to rescue any of the kidnapped schoolchildren and couldn’t defeat the terrorist group hiding in a forest.
The failings of this global intervention led to a number of fatal miscalculations, argue the Wall Street Journal correspondents Joe Parkinson and Drew Hinshaw in their new book, Bring Back Our Girls. What’s more, the fame brought about by the social media campaign kept the girls in captivity for even longer and the mistrust between the U.S. and Nigerian governments delayed action on vital information sharing.