In testimony before Senate and House committees, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton enthusiastically endorsed increased U.S. intervention in Africa. When government officials seem incapable of learning obvious lessons from the recent past, maybe their incentive is not to learn but to keep doing the same destructive things.
President Obama’s inaugural speech contained this line, which has gone quite overlooked: “America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad.”
That's a recipe for perpetual war and perpetual fiscal crisis.
The latest locale for American intervention is the west African country of Mali. Aside from whatever covert activity the U.S. government may be conducting there, the American role is said to consist of logistical support for France, Mali’s former colonial overlord, which has intervened militarily to defend a central corrupt government. (The deadly hostage-takings in Algeria may have been retaliation for France’s action.) As the New York Times reports, “The Pentagon is airlifting a French battalion to join the fight in Mali against Islamist militants, Pentagon and administration officials said.” Ominously, the Times adds, “The airlift expands the involvement of the United States in support of a NATO ally, but officials stressed that the American military footprint on the ground in Mali would remain small.” That is, there’s already an American footprint on the ground.
Such is how quagmires begin.
What’s going on in Mali that requires U.S. meddling? It’s a complicated and murky story that goes back to the repression of the separatist ethnic group, the Tuaregs, in northern Mali and, writes Jeremy Keenan, the Algerian government’s effort after Sept. 11, 2001, to concoct a “terrorist threat” to motivate the U.S. government to pay for modernization of its army. Seeing Africa as a rich source of oil, gas, and other resources, the Bush administration was happy to get involved in the region. (Got to keep the Chinese away.)
While the Obama administration sounds alarms about al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), reporter Patrick Cockburn notes that
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Sheldon Richman (photo)