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A Noble and Much Maligned Act: A Case for Intervention

(14/01/2013) I absolutely commend France’s action over their former colony. Over the past few days, France has finally come to the aid of Mali by providing considerable support through heavy aerial bombardment and more logistical help is on the way from the likes of Britain. Even America has stated it would lend reconnaissance drones to the cause. As expected the terrified, and most likely baffled rebels, then responded with typical vengeful rhetoric. But then again, why would they want to give up their cushy gig of oppressing the local Malian population and profiting from their huge drug trade?

Mali has had a very turbulent recent past with the Tuareg rebels starting an uprising with only a phony peace being organised in 1995. The January of last year saw this conflict renewed with the Tuaregs taking the vast lands of the entire north of Mali. After seizing the North, the Tuareg’s allied themselves with the Islamist Ansar Dine rebels but the Ansar Dine turned on the Tuareg’s and now Mali’s northern population live under a cruel and strict interpretation of Sharia law, imposed by the fundamentalist Islamic rebels. What bothered the west even more was their supposed ties to Al-Qaeda, and so France intervened.

Normally, countries wince at the very suggestion of intervention as it conjures up images of the collateral and bloody chaos of Afghanistan. But this can be blamed on numerous other, inevitable factors. It would have been ignorant and selfish to not have intervened and a country’s sovereignty is irrelevant when faced with a crisis on this scale. It’s people are at the complete mercy of these self-proclaimed rulers. Not to mention, the country would just collapse further into chaos as the poorly resourced and supposedly corrupt Malian government would not have been able to restore peace and stability on it’s own. This in turn would have only loose the Government more support until it becomes a failed state, a place were recruitment for fundamental extremism thrives.

Moreover, according to French Defence Minister, Jean-Yves le Drian, “We are making air raids the whole time. They are going on now. They will go on tonight. They will go on tomorrow.” This shows that, not only is their intervention just, it’s application is correct. It would be dangerous and self-defeating to only intervene in a lack luster manner, it has to be quick and powerful. They already have cleared many towns of the rebels and security is increasing in Mali.

It is often forgotten that intervention is not just a military affair. After this initial powerful surge is carried out, then a much heavier emphasis on rebuilding needs to be placed. If a group of westerners are attacked by theAnsar Dine while they trying to build a school or hospital, who is the local population going to support? Military action should only be taken to make sure this sort of infrastructure building can be possible. Plus, once the nation is stabilized, and it’s trading, it’s loyalty will be fierce to those who helped liberate it.

Flawless intervention is near impossible

This isn’t to say that the case for intervention isn’t without it’s drawbacks. For instance, though the rebels have been largely cleared from some towns and cities, they can still launch an effective Guerrilla campaign from the barren swathes of countryside, so the threat is far from removed. Another concern many nations have would also be where to draw the line. By intervening in one country, you should therefore intervene in another and then it becomes hard to distinguish what the true case for interventions should be. Though from the perspective of the intervening nation, the greatest drawback is the loss of life of their nation’s soldiers and and any casualties sustained. This of course is a very high price to pay but not paying it would be even higher cost all together. It would, by default, take a very patronizingattitude and deny those oppressed people their basic rights while the nations that do nothing retain their own. Plus if, the intervention is effective, than any attack by the militants will just seem barbaric and the local population will oppose them.

These other drawbacks can also be overcome with the application of effective training of the local army; speedy, quick and powerful military intervention; working with the locals and not alienating them (winning the ‘classic hearts and minds’ battle, something that is already happening with people in Mali who are proudly waving the French flag); and most importantly bringing prosperity to a nation. The intervening nation should not become obsessed with installing democracy. That will be a trait of success rather than a means of attaining success.

The fact the rebels will run off into the harsh terrain is an inescapable fact of intervention and one that just has to be accepted. The use of new ‘Drones’ will reduce the damage that can be done by this but the threat will only be removed once true prosperity is installed. The main reason these militant resistance movements are started are because a disenfranchised population is perfect recruiting ground for extremist organisations such as Ansar Dine. But once all these other problems are overcome, it will then be possible to achieve the ultimate goal of intervention: initiating stability, prosperity and acceptable human rights.

A New Era of Intervention

Lack of intervention would have been far worse and so it is wrong to paint the French as imperialist invaders, because by doing that it inevitably paints the Islamist oppressors as the noble freedom fighters, which is simply not the case. The whole aim of this intervention in Mali is to remove these tyrants and install justice, that should never be forgotten. It will not be painless but it must be done and the sooner the better. By intervening now and effectively, it will also discourage similar organisations from thinking they can just hijack a country and enforce their will, irrespective of the people’s will.

In Syria, the lack or delayed intervention means the much of their local population now dislike the west and feel abandoned. Has not intervening in Syria been a success? Well it has for Bashar Al-Assad. Hopefully France is now setting a precedent and this operation in Mali and the reluctance to intervene, probably caused by Afghanistan and Iraq, will cease and we will see a new era of intervention.

It remains to be seen just how successful this intervention will be, but the important thing is, it has the potential for success. As I have mentioned before, if done right, all intervention can be a success. Perhaps if nothing else, it would be selfish and ignorant to just stand by and let these sort of brutal tyrants and go unchecked when we have the ability to punish them.


About Dean Forrester

Dean Forrester is the Editor-in-Chief of The International Citizen. An International Politics graduate from King's College London, with an NCTJ Diploma in Journalism, he is interested in international affairs and development.
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