In Algeria yesterday, the Islamic rebels that had taken hostages in supposed coalition with their Malian counterparts fought the Army and everyone lost.
The above report shows the events to be still unclear, possibly ongoing but that is not our subject today. Best of luck to all yet involved.
Meanwhile in Syria, the daily body count is averaging above the 40+ described lost in the worst estimates from Algiers.
A new follower today commented on yesterday’s post and worried about repercussions to those living in Mali. I’ll pick that up now.
In order to see what should change and how, let us say first that the worse of military options are not on the table at the moment. Since France is not involved in a war with an organized state, there will be no carpet bombing of populations nor heavy destruction of the Malian industrial infrastructures, such as they are. The French bombers will not be able either to use specific destruction of valuable sites to raise doubt in the enemy’s assessment of its chances, both because the valuable objectives are not there physically speaking and also because risk assessment by terrorists is notoriously deficient.
Instead, France undertook the most efficient aerial strategy : to deny ( as on the initial day’s stopping of the rebel troops’ progression South ) territory gains and use to of it to the enemy. As in the SEAD/DEAD duality regarding air defence systems, sometimes you want to incapacitate the adversary as it is enough to accomplish the mission, sometimes … as it seems it will be the case sooner than later from what can be read between the lines of the French official statements so far, you need to go all the way and destroy the targets and the enemy’s leadership along with them.
Denial and destruction.
The application of these tactics include troops on the ground. In Libya, one might have incorrectly concluded that air strikes were enough to obtain victory when in fact, A- there were troops on the ground although neither Occidental nor regular and B- the final result has not shown probity yet. Ghaddafi removed, yes but Libya saved, the bets are still out on that. In order to effect a switch from simple denial to control, you need boots, ground troops, soldiers doing their real job.
In the case of Mali, there is thus little to fear about the average population turning unhappy over the foreigners/ex-colonial masters. For the very reason that the unhappiness that provokes rebellions when not terrorist in nature existed BEFORE the Djihadis came along.
As many African nations, Mali is a construct of colonial times. It was built upon physical territorial gains from the “invaders” with inclusion in it of populations that were not necessarily close to each other on a societal basis. The most well known of sub-national entities must be the Tuaregs. Those people are from old times indeed a culture, it cannot be denied. A harsh culture if beautiful. The name conjures up the images of indigo head wraps on men as they tower from their meharis on top of huge dunes. The sun had the tincture seeping into their skins over the years and gain the Blue Men moniker at the same time. They do by the way cover the warriors for they believe their feral beauty to be too much for women! Opposite technique to the Islamic veil if stemming from about the same intent.
There is a less romantic side to them as they mostly live in and around the Sahara and while crossing it with caravans, also regularly pirated non-Tuaregs convoys taking loot and hostages and on occasion or many occasions rather, becoming slave traders, yup, slavers. For that reason especially, they were not well seen by local neighbors nor by the successive governments in Mali and often mistreated or forgotten. Their rebellion is nothing new.
Their alliance with the Islam extremists is a matter of tactical situation in time and space. When the Al-Qaeda conglomerate party spread over North Africa, it found Tuaregs all over since it is their ancestral land. And more so even since AQMI/Ansar Dine and their little siblings and associates usually stay on the periphery of the countries that they try to disrupt/conquer. Which is safer.
Otherwise said, the operational art of both groups was identical and their tactics in synch if not their motives and all their objectives. The ancestral pirate ways of the Tuaregs and their desire to control the Northern part of Mali at least to TImbuktu coincided with the Islamic groups’ agenda. Some of the Tuaregs are now thinking of entering talks with the government.
It is the proper time for Mali to progress towards solving its internal problems by being open to the Tuaregs that choose this route. Even though the rules of life I have described earlier do not endear them much to one’s heart, the simple clue of who wants negotiation and who wants to press on with the fighting is proper, isn’t it? And the goodwill gained now will allow the rebuilding of Northern Mali tomorrow.
As for the rest, like the cousins that mangled the Algerian crisis, they are but terrorists. That calls for our last point in setting the decor : there are two kinds of terrorism, depending on their strategic aims and ab initio their intent. One is represented here by the non-Islamic Tuaregs and one by the Al-Qaeda cloud. The first is the liberation movement that sees a population adopt a social or national unity and fight to claim their liberty from a tyrannical power. The feeble to strong argument is a fact that declines itself into terrorist action by pure need. The second is that of any group that decides to obtain and gain rights over existing National entities out of their reach, both military and political, by resorting to terrorism de facto. That distinction is easily muddled if only by passing time and results so that if a person of the first type has a calling to the second, the end of the need for autonomy may not mean the end of the ways; once they gain liberty, they then proceed to obtain that of others, or at least liberty from the ex-enemy’s perceived dictatorship to their own perceived paradisiac solution. And further it degenerates into simple banditry.
You must have noticed in the above that I often refer to intent; continually even for those of my readers that have been with me for long enough. There is an explanation for that found in any proper judicial system. John Doe drives drunk cause he mostly does that and runs someone over. His habit and subjacent statement of intent that John Doe does not care for others on the road are to blame. But if Johnny Doan decides to get behind the wheel because someone is dying already and he is the only driver around that can bring them to medical help and runs someone over, although there is still a dead passerby, the intent was to help someone. Intent will most likely play a role in the sentencing.
And intent is a clear problem to the United Nations.
Definitive Lapse of Reason wrote about it a while back :
In that piece dated from the 23rd of October, I was offering a course of action to help in Syria. Because Mali was already being taken care of, which took form, coalesced into last Friday’s military intervention by France in answer to the Malian government’s call for help. Not only has my idea not reached the higher spheres of international power but it simply appears that we will have to watch the dead bodies pile up for a while to come. Which begs the question why? Again two months later, why can we help Mali but have to watch Syria auto-destroy? The answer is : that the UN was built that way. The explanation is complicated though.
The UN is a close relative of the Frankenstein monster. It is made of different parts from different bodies, some of which are clearly not compatible. As we also detailed in this blog :
Islam is a religion. UN members are Nations. Some UN members are Islamic nations. And strict application of the Sharia does contradict with the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights.
I am again not commenting but simply quoting : “All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.” from the Declaration’s very first article! It thus brought me to write that piece up there but let me go on to add that this contradiction is not solely found on a religious basis and that for instance any country actively oppressing a minority or a neighbor is also disqualified as would be Israel in the occupied territories. And here we are with incorrect members, tsssk! Well, it just so happens that the United Nations were born just for that purpose!
By promoting an assembly of Nations aiming for inclusiveness and a Charter as an aim, indeed! Talk about contradictory intents! So that if it promotes great values, it must act in down to earth fashion. And it does. You can chat it out in the General Assembly, learn to know each other better and voice minor gripes but consensus rules and indecisive consensus is very similar to a dessert only diet. It can wreck a waistline!
And while the UN in general is getting fat, the down to earth Security Council revolves around the opposite concept : the big guys have things under control, just send a request and we’ll call you back!
Examples from above : we can save Mali cuz’ all agree, Israel can do Gaza cuz’ the US won’t let them be blamed for it, Syria can drown cuz’ China and Russia won’t allow a lifeline to be tossed their way, to protect the future rights of autocratic regimes? The tool is more defined by what it will not allow than what it will. In a military alliance such as the well-know NATO, things are set-up as to permit action easily even if it means that some of the members will choose not to participate. In the UN’s Security Council, things are set up as to prevent undue/improper actions so much that it regularly conflicts with needed action. If you have one friend in the group of 5 Permanent members of the Council, that is ready to go to bat for you, it’s allowed whatever it is! Sorrry, err did I just say allowed? I meant not forbidden of course!
Or in philo-military parlance : Tactical choices are made from strategic imperatives improperly selected by perceived geo-political necessities of the momentary socio-political constructs.
So that it is always a political show and not much more! But on average, that show has kept the world relatively safe since its inception. It picked up from World War II, survived the Nuclear uncertainty and gives me more stuff to write about ( sic ). It is sad more than even singular that I can honestly say that for those reasons only Mali’s present situation is a good occurrence of the UN’s SC’s work!
And Syria a failure. A people has to suffer the last outrages so that the veneer of democratic process and balance of power can safely endure. And cynicism is embodied twice in the side effects that it also justifies the very presence of main stream Islam in National forms as Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar et al and in so doing may have saved us all from the Civilization shock of 1975′s Occident having to run over Islam and colonize the terrain separating it from huh, China?
We live in an utterly imperfect World that survives on an infinitely delicate balance between centuries of philosophy and wars concentrated in the ideals brought forth more than two hundred years ago by the sister republics and the prevention of that hideous strength last embodied globally during our last World conflict.
So the sad truth is that the two following wishes are mine to you and yours, that it keeps on working and that it gets fixed soon!
Peace out to all who have views that need no one to get killed, Tay.