Saturday, February 2, 2013

Custodial Blues

"It is perfectly clear that France has intervened because American policy in Mali has failed dismally. The U.S. counter-terrorism training mission in Mali made the stupefying mistake of choosing three of four northern unit commanders to train who were Tuareg. These three Tuareg commanders defected to the rebels, bringing soldiers, vehicles, ammunition and more to the anti-government side. France has better connections in its former African colonies than the U.S. ever will. The French seem to be approaching this in the vintage manner of suppressing a rebellion – something they did frequently in their old empire – rather than counterinsurgency in the current 'Petraeusian' understanding. It bears noting that the French, crushing rebellions every few years back in the old days, built far more durable local institutions than anything the U.S. has managed to pull off anywhere since 2001. So "leading from behind" with no boots on the ground (provide intelligence and logistic support and diplomacy to facilitate collaboration and authority), that is where the world’s greatest power should take the lead. When outside ground force from a major power is required, it should come from a nation with historic roots in the host country."
From a British reader of the N.Y.T.

We Europeans who were brought up through the sunset of empires can ask to be excused for  scratching our heads at the intervention strategies of today's Great Power in the affairs of post-colonial countries. The White Man's Burden of our imperial youth has been replaced by a made-in-USA concept of Custodian of the World's Democracy.  While a few times France, Belgium and Britain have gone back into former colonies to forestall invasion or civil war, the politically non-U label of Former Colonial Power makes the current French-led invasion of Northern Mali remarkably rare.  The humiliating rush to exit empire that characterized my younger years in Europe left many potential Malis and Syrias on the world map. Too bad we weren't granted the time by Roosevelt (for whom the new world order couldn't arrive fast enough) and his successors to figure out a peaceful way for the inhabitants of soon-to-be former colonies to decide how they wanted their new international boundaries to look.

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