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Yet another mess in the making in Mali? [Op-Ed]
The Pioneer ^ | Wednesday, January 16, 2013 | Gwynne Dyer

Posted on 01/15/2013 10:09:01 PM PST by Jyotishi

Nobody would like to know the answer to that more than the French. But they must keep the Afghanistan example in mind

Those days are over,” said France’s President Francois Hollande last month, when asked if French forces would intervene in the war between Islamist insurgents who have seized the northern half of Mali and the Government in Bamako. But the days in question weren't over for very long. Last Friday France sent a squadron of fighter-bombers to the West African country to stop the Islamist fighters from taking over the capital.

“We are making air raids the whole time”, said French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. “They are going on now. They will go on tonight. They will go on tomorrow.” Some 550 French combat troops are on the ground already, with up to 2,500 more to follow. Contingents of soldiers from the neighbouring countries of Nigeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Niger and Togo are scheduled to arrive as early as next week. It has turned into a real war.

It has also turned into a Western-run war in a Muslim country, despite the discouraging precedents of Afghanistan and Iraq. The Government of Mali has asked for French help, and on Monday the United Nations Security Council unanimously supported France's military intervention. The Army of Mali, such as it is, will theoretically be in charge of the war — but everybody knows that the Malian Army is useless.

In fact, the presence of Mali's Army at the front is usually counter-productive, as it is brutal, militarily incompetent, and prone to panic flight. The other African Armies are of variable quality, but it is obviously French troops, and especially French air power, that will decide the outcome of the war. So, has France bitten off more than it can chew? Is this going to end up like Afghanistan and Iraq?

The West is supporting the Government, not the rebels, in Mali. That Government, behind a flimsy civilian façade, is controlled by the same thugs in uniform whose military coup last March, just one month before the scheduled democratic election, created the chaos that let the Islamist rebels conquer the northern half of the country. The young officers who now run the country are ignorant and violent, and having them on your side is not an asset.

The Islamist rebels are fanatical, intolerant, and violent, but they are well-armed (a lot of advanced infantry weapons came on the market when Gaddafi's regime collapsed) and they appear to be well-trained. They have almost no popular support in 90-percent-Muslim Mali, whose version of Islam is much more moderate, but they have terrified the population of the north into submission or flight.

The insurgents are not short of money, either, as they receive secret subsidies from several Arab monarchies in the Gulf that have persuaded themselves, strangely, that subsidising radical Islamist movements in the far-flung fringes of the Muslim world is a good way to avoid being overthrown by radical Islamists at home. They are formidable opponents, and the war to free northern Mali may be long and hard.

Until recently the rebels seemed to be confined to Mali's desert north, but last week they began to advance into southern Mali, where nine-tenths of the country's 14 million people live. The Malian Army collapsed, and Western intelligence sources estimated that the Islamists would capture the capital, Bamako, within two days. That would effectively give them control of the entire country.

Mali has long, unguarded borders with seven other African countries, and it is only 3,000km from France. So French President Hollande ordered immediate military intervention to stop the Islamist advance, and we'll all worry about the long-term consequences later. The next Western war against Islamist extremists has already started, and the question is whether it will end up like Afghanistan.

Nobody would like to know the answer to that more than the French. Except, of course, the Malians.


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Editorial; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events; War on Terror
KEYWORDS: africa; france; islam; mali; muslim; qaeda

1 posted on 01/15/2013 10:09:11 PM PST by Jyotishi
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To: Jyotishi

This is a fairly objective article from an otherwise anti-Israeli Gwynne Dyer.


2 posted on 01/15/2013 10:45:35 PM PST by Kennard
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To: Kennard

Gwynne Dyer hasn’t been right in her writings on foreign affairs since sometime in the 1970’s. Went over to the darkside back then and never recovered.

Lots of papers dropped her column and never picked them up again.

No loss. We have enough leftists writing in the big media to keep us busy trying to keep them honest (an impossible task).


3 posted on 01/15/2013 11:37:50 PM PST by MadMax, the Grinning Reaper
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To: Kennard

The reason the Mali Army rebelled was because in their eyes the government was too soft against the terrorists and was failing to provide the army with ammunition.


4 posted on 01/15/2013 11:45:10 PM PST by piasa (Attitude adjustments offered here free of charge)
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To: Jyotishi; Cincinna; BillyBoy; GeronL; fieldmarshaldj

Hollande sauce is engaging in what the Euros call an “adventure”.


5 posted on 01/16/2013 12:34:25 AM PST by Impy (All in favor of Harry Reid meeting Mr. Mayhem?)
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To: Jyotishi
Mali is not Afghanistan. The Islamists aren't supported by the Tuaregs who today threw in their lot with the French and the Malian government

And the territory is flat, desert land. With air support, the French can demolish alQaeda easily. Quite in contrast to mountainous Afghanistan

6 posted on 01/16/2013 12:35:26 AM PST by Cronos (Middle English prest, priest, Old English pruost, Late Latin presbyter, Latin presbuteros)
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To: Jyotishi

Waiting for McCain to declare that “We are all Malians. Or Mali-ites. Or whatevcer we are.”


7 posted on 01/16/2013 2:44:16 AM PST by Forgotten Amendments (I remember when a President having an "enemies list" was a scandal. Now, they have a kill list.)
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To: Jyotishi
My into to Gwynne Dyer was in the early '80s, auditing a course based on his book War; as time goes by, I like him less.

Notwithstanding that, this article is not terrible, but is also not terribly enlightening for a man who supposedly has so many answers. I suspect he knows deep in his gut that the merde hitting the fan in Mali is clearly not some sort of nefarious Israeli construct, but about all he can do is sit at his keyboard and metaphorically wring his hands as he asks his penultimate question.

I don't know the answer either, Mr. Dyer, but I do suspect that apart from the Muslim Brotherhood franchise in the White House and John McCain (whose encystation in the Senate has led to a fondness of military adventures he can watch from afar), there is little enthusiasm left in the US for yet another ME intervention.

Mr. niteowl77

8 posted on 01/16/2013 2:51:20 AM PST by niteowl77 (Oh, crap.)
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To: MadMax, the Grinning Reaper

Mali wasn’t a Muslim country (except for some Tuareg areas in the north) and still isn’t - the whole point of this fight is that AQ has been trying to make it a Muslim country. Because of its important location as a huge country that covers a substantial area of Africa, it could be a key step in making all of Africa Islamic. This is not a result we want.

The US was doing its usual inefficient “train the locals” program prior to this, which resulted in the US trained and armed army either fleeing or going over to the other side when they were attacked earlier this year by “rebels” with arms from Libya. This is a well known fact and not nutty conspiracy theory. The fall of Gadaffi resulted in a flood of arms into the hands of AQ. (Something of which Benghazi was clearly a part).

Frankly, I think the French understand the stakes here better than anybody else. As for US involvement, so far we seem to have done everything possible to assist AQ, and if I were the Fench, I wouldn’t trust the current US leadership to be on the right side in this conflict.


9 posted on 01/16/2013 3:18:09 AM PST by livius
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To: MadMax, the Grinning Reaper

It’s a he ....not a she. I’ve read a few of Dyer’s books, and I don’t think he’s a big fan of western civ. In fact, I’d say he’s a pretty good reverse barometer. If he’s against it, I’m for it.


10 posted on 01/16/2013 3:42:04 AM PST by driftless2
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