So it has begun. The French have invaded Mali, the Americans are supporting them (kind of) and the Canadians are helping (a bit). Here's a roundup of facts and opinions as of this morning.
First, the Canadians. As reported in WWW a few days ago, the Canucks generously sent one (1) C-17 Globemaster to do a bit of the heavy lifting, literally. They committed the jumbo transport for one (1) week, which was to have ended Wednesday. (Canadians take loooong weekends.)
The usual gang of "progressive thinkers", led by ex-diplomat and former al-Qaeda hostage Robert Fowler, suggested that a week wasn't enough time to flatten even a bunch of sand naggers.
Canadian PM Steve Harper and his bumboys, Nancy Baird and Peter Machackey, are always ready for a scrap, as long as it's in defence of Israel. But defending the government of Mali is something else. Or at least it was until French President François Hollande cried "Shame, shame, al-Qaeda knows your name."
That moved Mr. Harpoon to extend the mission, not by sending another plane but by saying the C-17 would stay another three weeks. French applause was reportedly muted.
We turn now to today's opinion piece by Walt's old chum, Gwynne Dyer. Mr. Dyer know a lot about international politics, and has the courage to write the truth as he sees it, even when it goes against conventional wisdom and the party line. His peace-mongering political incorrectness has gotten him banned from a slew of papers in America and, err, Israel, but Google his name and you'll find lots of links to his columns.
Today, Mr. Dyer suggests the "Mali war could end up like [the] Afghan conflict" . Indeed.
Mr. Dyer tells us that the French prefer to draw analogies with Libya, rather than Afghanistan, since Libya was something of a success. The term is relative. What about the Benghazi "incident", still being downplayed by Hellery Clinton? And what about the British, just this week, ordering their nationals to leave Libya because of a "real and imminent" threat? But I digress...
The journalist points out the serious dissimilarities between Libya and Mali. First, in Libya, the French and British and their less-than-willing allies were supporting the rebels. In Mali, they are propping up a military government which came to power in a coup just last year. That government, composed as it is of black people from the southern part of the country, is like most other sub-Saharan African governments -- ignorant, incompetent and corrupt.
Moreover, the rebels -- mostly Tuaregs and other quasi-Arabic people from the north -- are, if not better organized than the Libyan rebels, certainly better armed. That's because a large chunk of the military aid sent to the Libyan rebels by stupid Westerners mysteriously vanished into the sands of the Sahara, only to reappear this winter in Mali.They're fighting us with our own weapons!
To make matters worse -- if that's possible -- the presence of Mali's army at the front is usually counter-productive (Dyer writes) as it is brutal, militarily incompetent, and prone to panic flight. The other African armies are of variable quality, but it is obviously French troops, and especially French air power, that will decide the outcome of the war.
What we have, then, is a Western-run war in a Muslim country, pretty much the same as what we had in Iraq and still have in Afghanistan.
And who is responsible for the sad state of the so-called Malian army? Step forward, the United States of America! It's not just Gwynne Dyer or Walt who says so. The BBC quotes the US military commander in Africa, General Carter Ham -- previously mentioned in WWW in connection with the Libyan affair -- as saying the Pentagon made mistakes in its training of Malian troops now trying to oust Islamists from the north.
Gen. Ham said American "trainers" had failed to teach Malian troops values and ethics, and had failed to inculcate "a military ethos". "We gave them plenty of tactical training," said the general, "but not enough ethics training."
The general was responding to reports of "abuses" -- meaning rape and pillage -- by Mali government troops taking part in the French-led counter-offensive. Murder too. Human rights groups have accused Malian troops of killing Arabs and ethnic Tuaregs as they advance north.
The reports have caused alarm and no little embarrassment in the West, not to mention the reluctance of Canada and other NATO countries to not involve themselves further in what is -- or should be -- another nasty and dirty little African affair. I haven't heard Ron Paul say "I told you so" yet, but well he might.