“It’s dirty job but someone has to do it” as the old saying goes describes exactly why France finds itself in position its does having to intervene military in Mali. France’s actions hopefully put an end to the “cheese-eating surrender monkeys” stupidity that exists on the American Right. I don’t see a lot U.S. troops on the ground in Mali nor will we. Drones have pretty much replaced actual soldiers at this point in the GWOT. At least France has real soldiers on the ground ready to fight.
Of course, the first important reason for France’s intervention in Mali is cleaning up the mess it help to create when it insisted they other NATO nations intervene in the Libyan Revolution. Having been defeated, Col. Kadahfy’s Tuareg mercenaries simply grabbed what heavy weapons they could from the Libyan army arsenal and went back to Mali and Niger and Algeria and the other countries these nomads roam through and starting causing trouble. The revolt by Tuaregs to carve off northern Mali into an automous state of Azawad and the political upheaval it caused in Mali was the first blowback caused by the Libyan intervention. The second was Islamic terrorists groups using the chaos as it’s angle to take control of northern Mali and push aside the Tuaregs, who only wanted self-government not seeing their women flogged in public for wearing the wrong clothes.
The second important reason has to do with collective security in response to aggression. It’s no secret France moved as quickly and surprisingly as it did because a red line was crossed in their minds which left them no choice. When the Salafist forces moved with 250 miles of the Malian capital of Bamako, then French knew they had to get involved. Had they not done so, it is conceivable the terrorists could have drive their pick-up trucks all the way Bamako and taken over. There would have been nothing to stop them considering the putrid state of Mali’s military, which is nothing more than a police army which is better at abusing its own citizens than fighting the enemy. And if the such armed Salfists groups took over, it would be the first time that such a trans-national terrorist group had seized control of another country right from the native people’s grasp (the Taliban were Pashtun tribalists allied with Al Qaeda).
Mali may well be a nowheresville to rest of the world but in this case it happens to be a central nowhere which touches everywhere. A Salafist takeover of Mali would have put them right in direct contact with the vicious killers of the Boko Haram terrorist group in Nigeria and providing an even more direct threat to that nation,which is the most important in all of West Africa, and to Christian populations the further south you go in Nigeria and states like Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Chad, Benin, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Togo and the Central African Republic. It would destabilize the entire region which is filled with artificial states left over from colonial times whose in some cases governments hang by a thread. If Mali fell to such well-armed terrorists, then the same could happen to these states as well.
There’s no denying France’s economic and political interests in the region but ask yourself do you really want Niger’s uranium deposits in the hands of the Salafists? We can talk about economic competition with China imperialism, colonialism, racism, the ineptitude of the political elites in Mali and others who abuse their rule across Africa etc., etc. all we like but it’s besides the point. This is clearly a case where aggression has to be beaten back given the possible consequences of not doing anything. Indeed, if anyone is worried about the impression of white French troops intervening in one of its former colonies (although France has black soldiers too) should ask the southern Malians who cheered their arrival, knowing someone was actually fighting for and protecting them instead of taking advantage of them.
Yes there is the real possibility of blowback and yes intervention in such internal conflicts like Libya (and Syria, which all should stay out of) is bad news but the situation in Mali has gone beyond internal politics and now has become part of, not war against terrorism, but extreme Islam seeking to conquer and oppress. France has taken the lead, thankfully, (“It’s dirty job but someone has to do it”) for the West and other nations, including the U.S. should give their full support.