French Intervention in Mali: The West May Again Lose
Islam and the dream of a Caliphate
Mali to most people in the world outside Africa is an obscure place. Not many are interested to know what is happening there. It is a remote land locked country, but its importance is tremendous. This country could well be the launch pad of an Islamic caliphate across the world. The Islamic ultra conservatives like al Qaeda have over the decade developed deep roots in this country and almost 50% of the area is controlled by them.
The west is rightly wary of this and France has taken upon itself to throw the Islamists out. This reaction in my view is too late and precipitated only after the Islamists threatened to overrun the entire country. The initial results of the French offensive are encouraging as the ultra Islamists have been halted and in some cases thrown back. The Islamists have now dug in for a protracted war and that is where the problem arises.
At this time one is reminded of Afghanistan where a similar action has now turned sour. Nearly a decade back the USA launched an invasion of Afghanistan with great fan fare. It was a war on terror and most of the world supported it. The USA did make some initial headway, but the terrain and the resilience of the Afghan Islamic guerrillas have brought in poor dividends. The USA is nowhere close to winning this war and finally Obama has bitten the bullet by deciding to retreat from Afghanistan in 2014. It does not need a clairvoyant to forecast that the exit of the USA will also mean the exit of the Karzai regime who may very well take the last plane out of Afghanistan along the US army.
Thus the omens are not good. Mali is something similar. The Islamists for long have been imposing the Sharia and cutting hands and feet. In addition the priceless monuments in Timbuktu have been destroyed. This is the nature of militant extreme Islam which thrives on destruction. The short-sighted Islamic militants have a one point agenda; Islamic rule and the Sharia and its spread all over the world. The French have intervened with their mirage jet fighter bombers and Douhet’s theory is valid as the Islamists without air cover are defeated. Yes, defeated but not destroyed as in Afghanistan.
The question that we must all ask and in particular the west is, as to what is the limit of this operation. Is it a short term project or a long term war of attrition? Both are hard and difficult choices and fraught with grave risks. But in both cases a victory for the West led by France appears impossibility. The reasons are myriad and basically canter around fighting a faith that brings in 5 replacements for every Islamic fighter killed.
Another reason is the lack of political will and ill defined long term plans of France and the west. Can the French fight for 10 years in Mali? Will they have the morale to sustain deaths in battle of French soldiers? These are questions that have to be asked. The theory of warfare by Clausewitz is valid even today. The French and the west have to answer the questions. In case at some stage the towel is again thrown down like in Afghanistan it will mark a great victory for the Islamic fighters. The world is facing resurgent and militant Islam hell bent on domination. To counter it is not easy.