As of January 11th, the French are leading a campaign to liberate the people of Mali from an oppressive rebel regime in the north of the country. The United States, Canada, Britain, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark have joined in, mostly in support roles. The common enemy is an Islamic rebel group of ethnic Tuaregs that has been imposing Sharia law and attacking anything and anyone that offends their sensibilities (monuments, manuscripts, businesses, people, etc). The group was making progress further south until the last month when France intervened.
I do not doubt or disagree that the atrocities being perpetrated by the Islamic Tuareg rebels in the north are heinous and should be stopped. I do wonder if this is another example of western governments capitalizing on Islamophobia and the fear of Al-Qaeda, which supposedly has had its back broken, but seems to crop up wherever resources do. I wonder what kind of government will eventually replace the rebel government of the north. Will the current government of Mali, which was installed by a military coup overthrowing a democratically elected president in early 2012, be reinstalled. Will the Western powers hand the reigns back to this military leadership; or will they attempt to reinstall the democratic government that existed before the coup? Both the United States and France publicly condemned the military coup that installed the current Mali government in early 2012, but maybe it will prove to be more useful than a democratically elected government.
Some say that the French and even the Canadians are involved in the conflict merely to take control of the strategically important reserves of gold, uranium, and oil in the country. The Canadian Peace Alliance and the Russia Today are good examples that are clearly not connected by similar goals. Considering that about 78% of France’s electricity comes from nuclear power plants, it is a definite possibility. It stands to reason that humanitarian intervention is at least a goal and a pretext, if not merely a pretext. This situation reminds me of the U.S. military policy elucidated by Bill Clinton (I’d love to find a source on this if anyone can provide me with one) that stated future wars would be fought when there is a convergence of human suffering that should be eradicated and the strategic interests of the U.S. (I am paraphrasing for lack of a source). It seems obvious to me that this is exactly what the French are doing.
It would be easier to dismiss the possibility that this is a resource grab if France had not “launched 37 major military operations in Francophone sub-Saharan Africa” between 1960 and 2006. It would also be easier to endorse this war if the French president Francois Hollande had not said “The military operations will last ‘as long as necessary,” and then the French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian had not promptly asserted that French troops would soon withdraw.
A consideration that should be on the minds of U.S. foreign policy makers is the influence the war in Libya had on this conflict. The successes of the rebel forces have been largely due to an influx of arms that were smuggled into the north from Tuareg warriors who fled after the conflict in Libya. In other words, America is not exempt from blame for the current conflict.
What would happen if I had my way? I would see the international community, sanctioned by the Mali government (as at least France has been), take their leave after stabilizing the country. What I instead foresee is the Western powers, especially France and Canada, sticking around and making sure that their companies have first dibs on any resources in the country. My inclination is to say that a military dictatorship or a democratic puppet government would be much more pliable when it comes to granting foreign powers access to Mali’s resources (and the profits thereof) instead of a democratically elected government that actually represented the interests of the people of Mali.