Walter Russell Mead notices that the French may have bitten off more than they can chew in Mali:
France needs US help, and the US should give it. Just as France’s Libyan intervention failed because the country ran out of military supplies, France’s Malian adventure could collapse without our support. But the situation nevertheless raises alarms.
I think Mead lets the French off the hook a little too easily here. As the Diplomad points out, the Europeans have a history of being willing to fight to the last American, or at least the last American dollar. And it was at their instigation that we took the Qaddafi top off the Islamists in Libya in the first place, for reasons not entirely altruistic:
The unpleasant drag queen who used to run Libya knew how to keep these groups under control. Instead of working with the old buzzard, we listened to the Europeans, and participated in an insane war to have him removed. By the time we decided that Qaddafi was the devil, he was cooperating with us in the battle against the Islamists, had given up his involvement in international terrorism, and abandoned his WMD program. He was like an old repentant Mafia chieftain who sought to make points with the FBI. He also, it turned out, preferred dealing with American oil companies than with European ones, the real source of Europe’s sudden rage against Loretta of Libya. Back when he was sponsoring terror, the Euros were terrified of him and opposed Reagan’s actions against him. When he no longer posed a threat, ah, well . . . time to go to war, well, have the Americans go to war, that is.
So the casualties from last summer’s excellent Libyan adventure so far include four American diplomats, a reluctant ally, his country, and the north of Mali (with the rest in peril). Other consequences include emboldened Islamists from Somalia to Nigeria, and American guns ending up in very questionable hands in Syria. Tunisia’s government has become less cooperative with regards to the Benghazi “investigation.”
Aside from Libyan and Nigerian oil, there are Malian rare earths, and in the long run, a port on the West African Coast free from NATO interference. All this goes hand-in-hand with Islamists now running Egypt and threatening to overrun Syria, and reports emerging of the government having used chemical weapons on its own people.
With al Qaeda on the run to take over as many countries as they can at this point, now is the appropriate time to examine the administration’s strategy for North Africa and the Middle East, if indeed it has one. The election, of course, would have been ideal. But the press played full-court defense on foreign policy, and burned Romney twice for trying to go after the Benghazi disaster, and he never really had a coherent alternative vision, anyway.
The President owns this mess. He gave air support to the Libyan rebels without even bothering to ask for Congressional approval, and he’s stonewalled every effort to investigate what happened at Benghazi, which might have put a light on some of what’s going on over there.
If the Congressional Republicans are interested in at least holding the administration publicly accountable, there are a couple or three confirmation hearings coming up that will provide a convenient venue.