The administration will not avoid further involvement in an African tribal war.
(Page 3 of 5)
One of the themes of Saharan history is that no one can expect to completely dominate the Saharans. They are too contrary. Like our Plains Indians, the Saharans are related tribes sharing a number of habits, borne of the harsh environment in which they evolved and the cruel history they never made, leaving them with a stubborn pre-modern sense of themselves, a refusal to be economic men as we know them.
The Tuareg took part in the French colonial drive in North Africa, sometimes serving as auxiliaries to military conquerors, sometimes resisting their advance, and sometimes playing both roles in turn. More recently, their raiding parties welcomed support from Moammar Gaddafi, who viewed them as instruments to destabilize the fragile regimes of the newly independent Sahel countries on the Sahara’s southern shores. He played both sides, investing in Mali, Niger, and other places. Evidence of this can be seen in Mali’s capital, Bamako: a school named for Gaddafi, luxury hotels he built used by American military missions and U.N. development teams.
The hell of it was, the recent events in Mali likely would not have happened without Libya, and for that matter, it is quite possible the outcome in Libya would have been better had we given some forethought to the connections between that country and the Sahel.
When the Libyan civil war began in 2011, Tuareg who had been serving in Gaddafi’s military and security agencies for many years were among the most reliable troops against the NATO-supported rebellion. At the same time, countries like Mali and Niger were among those cautioning the Western powers that their democracy crusade might be admirable in intention, but unwise strategically.
They feared that the likely winners in another Western regime-change scheme would be not liberal democrats but Arab Islamic radicals, the kinds of people whom they, the black Africans, had no reason to trust. They knew that Gaddafi feared and hated the Islamists, and so long as he competed with them for influence in the Arab world, he was more likely to make friends in (and give money to) sub-Saharan Africa than to foment subversion there.
Also, they worried about what would happen to Africans in a post-Gaddafi Libya, which, with its oil money, had attracted tens of thousands of black construction workers, domestics, kitchen helpers, and then, little by little, more skilled workers. All of them contributed to Libya and gave back to their countries by sending money home. Unlike the nomads and highwaymen of the desert, these were modern economic migrants.
They were despised and even hated by the democrats we helped bring to power. Even before the regime fell, Africans were being lynched in rebel-controlled areas. The Tuareg (who do not consider themselves black) saw the writing on the wall and left, taking their weapons with them. These were modern arsenals—Gaddafi did not skimp.
What would they do next? The Tuareg are poor, primitive people. Their traditional way of life was disrupted by the great droughts of the 1970s and 1980s, with the decimation of camel herds, the desertification of date orchards, and the drying up of wells. They began to feel hemmed in by the post-colonial borders representing the power of incursive, often black-dominated states.
The French promoted the idea of a Tuareg state in the late 1950s so they could keep a base in the southern Sahara. Nothing came of it, and the former French Sudan became Senegal and Mali. Tuareg tribes launched their first rebellion even before Mali declared its independence.
The leader of Mali’s national movement and the new nation’s first president, Modibo Keita, was a black power, Africa-for-Africans man, which in the Sahel means he distrusted and disliked the whites, the Saharans. (Though the Saharans were not all white; Moors and Arabs and Tuareg mixed and competed with the black Fulani and Songhai.)
There are deep historical and cultural differences among the tribes on either side of the great Niger River, not to mention geographic facts that encourage different modes of existence.
The river peoples are more sedentary and settled than the desert peoples. The desert peoples also practice slavery, one of the factors of distrust between blacks and whites in Mali. They want their own state, the southerners ask, for smuggling and criminality? And to maintain slavery? You can denounce the post-colonial borders all you want, say they are the phony lines drawn by imperialists meeting in Berlin a long time ago. But then what? It was to liberate Africans from their ancient, often cruel practices that Modibo and the other black power men preferred not to redraw the map. They reasoned that changes could be made within the boundaries they controlled. If they abandoned chunks of territory here and there to tribal majorities, who knew where it would stop and who would be in charge?
We went for a visit deep inside Bamako’s neighborhoods, the ones away from the great river, where the streets are not paved, and away from the fine hotels where the lobbies are made of marble and the men wear suits and carry briefcases. We asked the doctor for his opinion on democracy and free markets. “Our children do not see doctors, and our daughters, no matter what I tell their parents, are still cut, you understand? And why does your government certify our elections when less than a third of the people even know they can vote?” The doctor said Modibo was for democracy. Thomas Sankara was for democracy. Patrice Lumumba was for democracy. All were murdered, the doctor said, by the ones we now call democrats. “Why are your soldiers here? Are they here to protect us from the Arab slavers? Are they here to save the north of the country from the Taliban? Are they here to let us sell our cotton on the American market?” Outside the doctor’s office, women were waiting patiently, breastfeeding babies and cooking rice over a pit.
FOR MALIAN army Colonel Alhaji Ag Gamou, desert warrior, it was not a matter of options. Tuareg tribesmen, many of whom he knew, were routing the ill-trained recruits the army sent to the desert regions of the country. He had to defend the north, which as a practical matter meant defending the north-south axis of Mali on the eastern frontier, from Algeria to Niger. The “Libyans,” as the Tuareg who served under Gaddafi were known, had returned home, hardened and well armed.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?
H/T to National Review Online