America needs stronger leadership than Hillary Clinton's hashtag diplomacy

If you turn on the news these days, you’re likely to hear about the latest horrific incident in a long string of violence from Boko Haram. Best known for the heart-wrenching kidnapping of 276 schoolgirls last spring, the Nigerian-based terrorist group is also responsible for massacring up to 2,000 villagers in Baga, blowing up churches on Christmas and, just this week, becoming the lead suspect in the deadly bombing that killed 23 people in N'Djamena, the capital of Chad.

Earlier this year, Boko Haram even formally declared its allegiance to ISIS, the brutal terrorist group beheading Americans and exporting terror throughout Iraq and the entire Middle East.

All told, the death toll at the hands of Boko Haram is in the thousands, including many women and children. They are terrorists under any sense of the word – except in Hillary Clinton’s State Department, which, despite early warning signs, repeatedly refused to designate it as a foreign terrorist organization.

As Boko Haram was growing in strength, many in the federal government, including the CIA, FBI, Department of Justice, members of Congress, and even in Clinton’s own State Department, warned Secretary Clinton to formally label them as a terrorist organization. Doing so would have given the United States government significant capabilities, such as international isolation, financial restrictions and heightened general awareness, to counter the threat posed by the group.

When Clinton was at the top of the State Department and had the ability to inflict real damage on Boko Haram, she failed to act.

As a member of the United States Senate in 2012, I introduced the “Boko Haram Terrorist Designation Act,” which would have ratcheted up the pressure for Clinton to label them as terrorists. No action was taken. I even wrote a follow-up letter to Clinton expressing my concern about Boko Haram’s growing aggression. Again, nothing was done.

Once Boko Haram started wreaking havoc and kidnapping young girls, Clinton’s tried to adopt a tougher tone on terror – but it was too little, too late at that point. When Clinton was at the top of the State Department and had the ability to inflict real damage on Boko Haram, she failed to act.

In fact, it took until 2013 – after Clinton had departed Foggy Bottom and John Kerry had taken over – for the State Department to formally label Boko Haram as a terrorist group. The State Department later acknowledged the designation could have come sooner.

Many questions remain about Clinton’s reluctance to slap Boko Haram with the terror tag. Some have suggested a connection to Gilbert Chagoury, a wealthy Nigerian construction tycoon who has donated between $1 and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and whose business and financial interests might have been adversely impacted by the formal acknowledgement of a terrorist organization in his country. After all, Chagoury is no ordinary friend, having contributed to Bill Clinton’s re-election bid in 1996. More recently, in 2008, the Chagoury family gave thousands to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. It wouldn’t be the first time that Hillary Clinton’s actions at the State Department were influenced by her husband’s financial activities.

It’s telling that during the re-launch of her campaign last weekend, Clinton hardly mentioned anything from her tenure at Foggy Bottom. During her four years as our nation’s top diplomat, America grew demonstrably weaker and less secure. From the unrest across the Middle East to calling Syrian President Bashar Assad a “reformer” to her widely panned “reset” of relations with Russia, Hillary Clinton’s stint as secretary of state was a disaster. In fact, even she, when asked directly, was unable to name a single accomplishment from her four-year term.

Years after she missed the early warning signs of Boko Haram, Clinton joined the growing chorus of people on Twitter tweeting “bring back our girls.”

In these dangerous times and ever-changing world, America needs more than hashtag diplomacy. It needs bold, firm, strong and decisive leadership. And time after time, as the nation’s top diplomat, Hillary Clinton failed on those counts when we needed it most.