The Mali No One Cared About Until Now

2 Feb

francois-ramboMali has vaulted into the world’s precious bucket list of A-level of conflicts to squash, and both France and the Obama administration are taking curtain calls. I’ll admit, that before I had read Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and Poverty, that the African continent was truly “dark”, in the connotative sense that Africa is irrelevant to international affairs and human history. But, Mali is a very interesting place, according to Laura Seay.

It’s also ironic, that the destruction of cultural treasures in the famed Timbuktu which most people never knew existed would become a matter of consternation in the global media.

Many arguments about the burning of the manuscripts have since emerged with some analysts suggesting that Ansar Dine set the scrolls ablaze because they were losing ground in the city.

Others say that one wing of the rebel group had split off to create its own movement to negotiate a solution to the crisis in Mali, leaving the more radical members to burn down the library in frustration.

Whatever the reasoning behind the obliteration of a rich body of historical documents, the effects of these actions on Islam is left to be seen.

In sweeps the French army, and now the prime minister, Francois Hollande.

And then, Marc Ambinder won’t even allow Malians, rebels or terrorists, ownership of their own news cycle. Mali is an example of the Obama administration’s new approach to war.

And now, in Mali and Algeria, the president is content to leave the hard work to the French, who have significant cultural and economic ties to the country.

Where President Bush and his advisers used the pretext of September 11 to try and shake up the Middle East and force it towards democracy, Obama is using events very differently.

There is finally some substance to his vague notion of using U.S. hard and soft power to encourage other countries to accept responsibility for problems better handled by them. It is an orthogonal approach to interventionism.

In Libya, Syria and Mali, the U.S. has provided technical intelligence assets and helped with the supply chain: arms and fuel and transportation. We have not, as a country, “stayed out.”

I’m skeptical of such sweeping statements. We don’t know exactly how much help the Pentagon is providing. Isn’t this all just subcontracting, of lesser tasks that the Pentagon could do and the French military would never do if it didn’t know the United States backed it?

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