Mali, Unintended Consequences, and Endless War

John Glaser, January 14, 2013

Kevin Gosztola over at FireDogLake has a helpful round-up of news stories describing US involvement in the French-led military intervention in Mali:

CBS News reported the ”United States is providing communications and transport help for an international military intervention aimed at wresting Mali’s north out of the hands of Islamist extremists.” Though the mission is taking place in a “lawless desert in weakly governed country,” French foreign minister Laurent Fabius said the operation was “gaining international backing. The US was providing communications and transportation support.

On January 12, “US officials” told CBS “they had offered to send drones to Mali.” Drones excel in weakly governed and lawless deserts and lawless parts of countries it seems such parts are where the US likes to use drones the most.

The Wall Street Journal reported, “France asked Washington late last week to deploy unmanned aerial drones and aircraft that could be used to refuel French fighter planes in the air. Paris also asked the US to provide satellite imagery and share intercepts of militants’ communications.”

According to WSJ, unnamed US officials told the newspaper the role of America “would be non-lethal in nature, focused on intelligence collection and providing other support to French and any allied African forces.” But drones were used to carry out strikes in Libya in 2011 and mission creep could easily lead to a situation where military drones were not just providing non-lethal tactical support to enable French military operations.”

Also, Tom Vanden Brook of USA TODAY reported, “US military warplanes assisted French forces battling Islamic extremists in two African countries over the weekend, according to the Pentagon, highlighting the growing threat of al Qaeda-linked terrorists in the region.”

It is important to remember, as I wrote almost a year ago, that the unrest in Mali that is now the excuse for Western military intervention is a direct consequence of the US-NATO war in Libya in 2011. Former Gadhafi militias, including lots of Tuaregs from northern Mali, returned after an influx of arms flooded Libya. The resulting unrest led to a military coup  - led by by Captain Amadou Sanogo, trained by the US military - against President Amadou Toumani Toure. So not only did the rise of Islamist rebels in Mali result directly from a separate US war in Muslim lands, but the subsequent collapse of the Malian government was instigated by militias that were trained and armed by the US.

“Over and over, western intervention ends up – whether by ineptitude or design – sowing the seeds of further intervention,” writes Glenn Greenwald, with regard to the intervention in Mali. “Nobody is better at creating its own enemies, and thus ensuring a posture of endless war, than the US and its allies,” Greenwald adds. “Where the US cannot find enemies to fight against it, it simply empowers them.”

Walter Russell Mead writes at The American Interest that Obama’s “counter-terrorism” policies in North Africa have failed catastrophically:

Since Obama took office the US spent almost $600 million to combat Islamic militancy across North Africa. In countries like Mali and Niger US forces trained local soldiers in counterterrorism skills. Arms and equipment were bought so local governments could protect their territories. This strategy, in theory, would protect North Africa from falling into the hands of Islamist militants—who would impose strict Sharia rule on unwilling locals and use lawless territory to launch attacks on Western targets—without involving a heavy deployment of American troops like in Iraq and Afghanistan.

That was the theory. But as heavily armed Islamist militants battle French forces in the Battle for Mali, it’s clear Obama’s strategy to help weak North African states protect themselves from terrorists has failed catastrophically.

“This has been brewing for five years,” one US special ops officer told the NYT. “The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic” fighters who came in from Libya.

The New York Times reports that some US officials believe a Western assault on Mali “could rally jihadists around the world and prompt terrorist attacks as far away as Europe.”

Indeed what has been happening in the news is revealing: the French-led air assaults seem to have emboldened the Islamist fighters. Either Mali becomes a long lasting military quagmire, or a misleadingly quick mission leads to even worse blowback somewhere else in Africa’s Sahel region, prompting yet another Western intervention.




51 Responses to “Mali, Unintended Consequences, and Endless War”

  1. $600 million is a lot of money. I smell….PROFIT!

  2. Drones excel in weakly governed and lawless deserts and lawless parts of countries it seems such parts are where the US likes to use drones the most.

  3. well, i have banned on a lot of sites.

    for telling the truth as i see it.

    let us consider the tuareg and the history of french imperialism in africa.

    i heard some jackass with the nyt try to assert that it was gassafi that armed the tuareg.

    not hardly. it was the sdece, the sas, the sbs, and the deltas that armed the tuaregs. brought 'em in to assist in the toppling of gassafi.

    and, of course it continues to go undiscussed as to why france, germany[other nato entities] had to depose gassafi. gassifi wanted gold for libya's hydrocarbons. and the eu ain't got no gold.

    that was the raison d'etre for that invasion.

    gassafi had no more love for the islamists than did saddam.

    the arms that the tuareg acquired were furnished them by the usa, and the other nato countries.

    many miss reality. mali is probably the poorest country in africa. and the tuareg have been the opponents of french imperialists for decades.

    do you recall the legion d'etrangeres[french foreign legion]. the prinicipal opponents of french imperialism were the tuareq.

    think of the tuareg as the sahel's viet minh.

    do you really want to fight that war again?

  4. One good part about this: the imperialist scumbag countries will bleed and bleed and bleed.

  5. [...] Mali, Unintended Consequences, & Endless War [...]

  6. I doubt that the assault on Mali is designed to counter "Islamists." It has to do with subjugating Africa and denying potential competitors of the US, mainly China, from trading with Africa.
    The US ruling elite are well aware of blowback. They do not need us to tell them their wars "do not work." That is the arrogance of the Wesrtern intelligentsia. The wars do work. The Pan -Africanist Gaddafi is gone and the West dominates Libya once again. Iraq is subjugated and occupied. Afghanistan, while not subjugated, is occupied and will not be a problem for the US for a while. Syria has not submitted but it is being wrecked and ravaged by the CIA and other Western agencies. (Perhaps Russia will be able to draw a line in the sand at Syria – we shall see.) Iran's economy is being destroyed by sanctions and must go on while under a cloud of war and observing the wreckage of Syria.
    Under Obama and Bush the US Empire is on a roll through the Middle East and Africa.
    Let us hope that indigenous African forces of all persuasions can unite to rid the Continent of the US/NATO Empire once and for all. It will not be easy. It will involve a mighty struggle, the beginning of which we are probably seeing no. But it is the only way forward for Africa. And we in the heart of the Empire must support that struggle by stopping the involvement of the US military in Africa.

  7. intervention as armed interference is simply gift-wrapped neo-colonialism..It stinks,its illegal and immoral…someday chickens will come home to roost and then they will learn what they dish out, they will be served and it will not be palatable….

  8. so do i and rather quickly. As soon as i comment about the thuggery about america i get duct taped across m y mouth…america is the greatest purveyor of violence and the largest exporter of terrorism in the world today is not hyperbole, it is simple truth…But many, many don't like nor want the truth tossed at them…Keep it up al, i'm with you….. Ever see the old star trek episode called; 'A Taste of Armageddon'? If not do…you can thank me later…peace bro

  9. [...] Mali, Unintended Consequences, and Endless War « Antiwar.com Blog [...]

  10. Well how about the atrocities committed by the Belgian monarch King Leopold in the Belgian Congo? Africa needs to defend itself from the west and should wholeheartedly embrace China.

  11. Probably China is much better than the West, but Africa should wholeheartedly embrace Africa.

  12. “… policies in North Africa have failed catastrophically”? For the people in the region, Yes. But for the arms industries profiting from every conflict, the policies are very successful – as planned!
    The Mali charade is all about protecting France’s uranium mining operations.

  13. Yep. The US taxpayer gets shafted yet again. They'll be selling blood to put food on the table, while their "leaders" vacation in Bermuda.

  14. Sadly, No. The already pressed taxpayers will pay but the instigators and profiteers will do just fine, thank you. There's no "good" part.

  15. Are you serious? What African force could defeat a US/NATO operation? The "winning" strategy is to hide and wait till the foreigners exhaust themselves. Remember Gordon at Khatoum?

  16. " policies in North Africa have failed catastrophically:"? From the point of view of corporate profit, the US policies are a great success, the loss of life and suffering on all sides being irrelevant to the bottom line. And the Mali charade is another extension of policy – the protection of French uranium mining interests. The usual suspects – "Islamist extremists" – are red herrings fed to the ignorant public.

  17. The recent 'fiscal cliff' deal was a massive increase in the taxes paid by someone like me in the lower tax brackets due to the elimination of the payroll tax holiday. Our government is talking about drastic austerity measures in general because they say we are broke and can't afford things like making sure Americans have food, shelter or medical care.

    Yet, we have millions of dollars to waste on military action in some useless desert in Africa. This is yet another worthless war for American citizens. It does nothing to improve our lives, or provide jobs, or even to secure our security. Yet our government decides on its own that it will spend millions and millions of dollars on this while raising our taxes and cutting programs that many Americans desperately need just to survive.

    We desperately need a new government. A government of the people, by the people and for the people that will spend money carefully where its needed to help the people instead of wasting it on foreign military adventures seeking mythical monsters to slay.

  18. Remember, they just raised our taxes and are threatening to cut vital services because they say we can't afford it. But, we've got $500 million to waste on a useless war on a useless desert on the other side of the world. Next time anyone talks about the budget, they better be serious about eliminating this sort of wasteful spending before they touch our taxes or programs that help Americans survive.

  19. No, only the poor taxpayers. We just got our taxes massively increased by the elimination of the payroll tax holiday. But rich taxpayers making $390,000 a year just got their Dubya/Obama tax cuts made permanent. Its not even all the taxpayers that are asked to pay for this. Only the ones who are struggling the most and who are also seeing the other programs that might help them cut to pay for these endless, useless wars. And the sad thing is that almost all of these people who are most hurt by these policies voted for the parties that will do this to them, and then laugh and throw a party also at their expense. They'd say they'd let us eat cake, but these days they won't even give us cake.

  20. John, it really has nothing to do with hegemony or controlling resources. We are most decidedly NOT in control in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya or Mali. We were kicked out of Iraq. We're getting ready to flee Afghanistan with our tail between our legs. Yemen and Somalia both have very active Islamist insurgencies. Libya is in chaos, with tribal militias in control. And the Islamists in Mali just captured another town AFTER the French intervention.

    You are absolutely right when you say the wars "do not work" for their STATED purpose. Only insane people would continue doing what they're doing expecting different results, so clearly the STATED purposes are not the real purpose for these wars. These endless interventions are not done to bring democracy, hegemony, western control of resources, stability or any of the other stated purposes, because they clearly do "do not work" for those purposes. The UNSTATED purpose is to provide justification for yet more war and killing, all to the benefit of military contractors, advancement for military brass, career advancement for imperial pundits, campaign contributions and pork for congressional districts. The only real, UNSTATED, goal of these interventions is to justify yet more interventions. Instability is welcomed for that purpose.

    It's obvious the policies don't work for the STATED goals, but are wildly successful for achieving the real, UNSTATED goals. Our "leaders" are not stupid or insane; they are depraved.

    Keith Olbermann said it years ago, before he was banished for being honest about BOTH parties. He said, "The reason for the war in Iraq, is to have a war in Iraq."

  21. “This has been brewing for five years,” one US special ops officer told the NYT. “The analysts got complacent in their assumptions and did not see the big changes and the impacts of them, like the big weaponry coming out of Libya and the different, more Islamic” fighters who came in from Libya.

    Note the officer says five years, but the two significant events he subsequently mentions are both the result of the Libyan intervention.

  22. [...] SOURCE: ANTIWAR [...]

  23. That was the theory. But as heavily armed Islamist militants battle French forces in the Battle for Mali, it’s clear Obama’s strategy to help weak North African states protect themselves from terrorists has failed catastrophically.

  24. The US was providing communications and transportation support.

  25. [...] Obama administration is aiding the French offensive in Mali to a considerable extent. However, officials have denied any plans to send in troops, while claiming they are still coming [...]

  26. Hi, United States is providing communications and transport help for an international military its very beneficial to people. I agree with you. Thank you very much

  27. [...] The US itself has been in its longest war phase in history, and those of us in other nations are constantly pulled along or affected by it in one way or another [...]

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