Al Qaeda in Mali shows there are things worse than colonialism

IBD:
France made the right call when it attacked al-Qaida in northern Mali. And it should be ready to stay on as an occupying power — with the West's full support.

If we had one bit of advice to offer French President Francois Hollande, it would be to ditch the guilty conscience.

Hollande correctly decided last week to intervene in Mali to keep Islamist militants from turning the north of that country into a new iteration of pre-2001 Afghanistan — a secure staging ground for terror attacks on the West. The militants could have pushed all the way to Mali's capital, Bamako, if French Mirage jets and helicopter gunships had not swiftly entered the fray.

Al-Qaida respects no national boundaries, as it further proved on Wednesday by seizing a natural gas field and taking 41 hostages in neighboring Algeria. The war on Islamist terror can't be won by following rules the enemy refuses to obey. Many in the West don't get that.

One of those self-imposed rules is to eschew colonialism. It's one thing to intervene, quite another to stay.

France has often interfered in the internal affairs of its former colonies, with Mali the latest case. But it tries to avoid any hint that it's trying to re-impose its rule. It likes to barge in with one foot already out the door.

This is pretty much how Hollande framed the Mali mission. At a Tuesday press conference he declared, "France should only intervene in Africa in exceptional circumstances and for a limited time. That's what we will do."

Then, sounding a bit like George W. Bush, he added that France's goal is to ensure that "when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory."

Here is where America could offer some friendly advice, were France ready to listen. We've tried doing what Hollande wants to do, in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It's called nation-building, and it's a long, bloody frustrating process with a poor track record. Iraq is a troubled state plagued by sectarian and ethnic rifts; Afghanistan — 12 years into our engagement—isn't even close to the kind of nation Hollande wants Mali to be.

...
Al Qaeda has a simple strategy.  First it creates chaos and then it exploits it.  Both al Qaeda and the Taliban has used the same strategy across a large swath of "Islamic states" from Afghanistan to Mali.  In the case of Mali they got a big assist from the Obama administration which failed to lock down Qaddafi's weapon depots before overthrowing him.  Al Qaeda took the weapons and used them to take over much of Mali.

The French are probably in for a long battle.  They need to quickly train and provide leadership to the Mali forces and help them defeat al Qaeda, before it can dismember many more people who don't follow their weird religious beliefs.

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