They're On Their Own
With America withdrawing from the world militarily, we will have to rely more on diplomacy, right? But New York Times columnist Roger Cohen declares that "Diplomacy Is Dead," that we no longer seem to be able to cut big diplomatic deals any more. One of the reasons is precisely this military withdrawal from the world.
The United States has lost its dominant position without any other nation rising to take its place. The result is nobody's world. It is a place where America acts as a cautious boss, alternately encouraging others to take the lead and worrying about loss of authority. Syria has been an unedifying lesson in the course of crisis when diplomacy is dead.
Our allies are noticing. In London's Daily Telegraph, Janet Daley concludes that as far as Barack Obama is concerned, fighting al-Qaeda, and terrorism in general, is somebody else's problem.
This has not prevented the Obama administration from effectively declaring that the war is over—at least, for the US. Whatever mopping up there is to be done of the anarchic franchise that al-Qaeda left behind, it will be for the old colonial nations to settle. France—with the help of Britain—was left to deal with Libya, trailed at a safe distance by the US, which offered only minimal assistance. Again, in Mali, France—with some help from the UK—is intervening at considerable cost financially and politically, to protect a sitting government from a violent Islamist uprising. And again, the Obama White House is making it clear that there will be no involvement of US forces. To the charge that this ought to be America's moral business too, that it is the only global superpower and that it alone possesses the military force to defeat international terror, there is only one stony-faced reply: we killed Osama. We settled the score. We are no longer the world's bodyguard.
American passivity toward the war in Mali is particularly inexcusable, since the Islamist takeover there is an indirect consequence of our intervention in Libya. African militias that had been fighting on behalf of Qaddafi in Libya returned across the Sahara after his fall, bringing an infusion of weapons and fighters to Tuareg separatists in Mali's north—who were then taken over by jihadists allied with al-Qaeda.
The good news is that the French are stopping al-Qaeda in Mali, and being welcomed by the locals. "People across Mali have begun flying the Tricolor to show their support for France's intervention."
And it's a good thing, too. Mali may seem very distant; it's northern city of Timbuktu, which has been overrun by Islamists, is a synonym for the remotest reaches of the Earth. But French intellectual Bernard-Henri Lévy offers the clearest explanation I've heard of what the French intervention in Mali is accomplishing.
It blocks the true aim of the Ansar Dine group's advance on the capital, Bamako, which is to reinforce Islamist cells operating to the west, in Mauritania, and to the southeast, in Niger; to join up, farther south, with the fighters of Boko Haram, the radical Islamist movement that has sown death and destruction in Nigeria for three years now; and thus to open up a lethal corridor through the subregion, a corridor that would, were it not for the French operation, have been nearly impossible to breach.
Elsewhere, one of the jihadists is quoted saying that their goal is to spread chaos all across the Southern Sahara, from Somalia West to the Atlantic.
The US has an obvious interest in preventing this and depriving al-Qaeda and its offshoots of yet another wild, anarchic haven from which to operate. It's too bad that we have to rely on the French to save us from that outcome, while we aren't even giving it enough attention to be described as "leading from behind."
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