maliFrench President Francois Hollande today announced that France will be sending more troops to Mali, reinforcing the 750-strong force of French soldiers already in the country. The situation in the West African state has been deteriorating since early 2012, when Islamist insurgents took over in the north. Mali’s government has been struggling to contain the insurgency and, on Monday, the town of Diabaly fell to the rebels. French officials warned that – without the French airstrikes that began last Friday – the insurgents were on course to make it to the capital, Bamako, within days.

So, should European states join the French intervention effort? On the one hand, many commentators have argued that the situation in Mali is a direct consequence of earlier Western intervention in Libya. On the other hand, however, not intervening can have consequences too. The conflict in Syria has so far claimed upwards of 60’000 lives, according to the UN, and Islamist groups have been making steady gains.

With the exception of Libya (and, to an extent, Syria), European powers have tried not to be seen to interfere too much in the internal politics of the Arab Spring countries. One of our commenters, Sam, even went so far as to argue that:

I rate Europe 9 out of 10 when it comes to the way they responded to the Arab Spring, however, I still blame Russia for the violence in Syria. Had they agreed with the rest of Europe then Assad would have been gone.

We took this comment to Sajjad Karim, a British Conservative MEP, to see if he shared Sam’s assessment:

Sajjad Karim made the point that Europe needs to keep supporting countries like Egypt and Tunisia that were making the transition to democracy, and that dialogue was necessary as part of the “evolutionary” process these countries are engaged in. However, how should European states react where the Arab Spring has not resulted in a democratic transition, as in Syria? Or where the regional affects of the Arab Spring (including, possibly, Western intervention) have resulted in conflict, such as in Mali?

What do YOU think? In the wake of the Arab Spring, should European countries be more willing to intervene militarily in order both to protect civilians and to prevent the rise of so-called “terrorist states”? Or does this sort of liberal interventionism lead to unpredictable consequences, as has arguably been the case in Mali? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

IMAGE CREDITS: CC / Flickr – Magharebia

41 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Osmen Ajruli

    i think this is very sensitive problem if u intervene that means u are involving directly in problem so that problem automatically can tomorrow get in u country but but if u help the government and their ordinary military forces to fight these terrorist groups it will be more effectively and u will keep u peace in u country but this means also if u wanna be a super cop thats is another different story

  2. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    Now, in Mali they intervene as there is gold, and I don’t know what else in the ground. In the South the mines are already operational and need to be protected, in the North the material, including oil, needs to be exploited still. Now that is the purpose they intervene, to the benefit of Mali. But why do they let the killings go on in Congo? I am in favour of the intervention, but a pity this is only done when economic elements are at stake, and not the human ones. See also what happened in Rwanda…

  3. avatar
    Pantelis Grigoriadis

    Yes, Europeans should totally help France on this. Look what happened to Syria, do we really want the same to happen to Mali? Someone might say that this is not our problem but I believe that if we leave things uncontrolled we’ll also be affected…

  4. avatar
    George Papadimitriou

    Establishing “democracies” around the world doesn’t seem to be working very well. Iraq, afghanistan, egypt, lybia, etc etc. Democracy, inordrer to be appreciated by the people, should slowly grow and rise through terrible turmoil, civil war and blood sometimes. Now, if we want to talk politics and decision making I will tell you this: show me Mali’s natural resourses map and I will tell you in a minute whether we will “protect” the citizens and “establish” democracy” or not…

    • avatar

      Well the more heavily populated south that’s still in government hands is a fragile democracy (transitioning ‘out’ of a military coup). The alternative unfortunately is corrupted Sharia law. There’s no oil but just like any country African there is mineral wealth. Personally I think this has more to do with the stability of France’s military presence across West Africa and the 6,000 French expats in the country…

  5. avatar

    Yes. I think EU should act. I would like European Union can intervene all together and not as single, isolate states, but I know we are not as coordinated as we need to have such an organized move. Another example of the problem of not having a single EU army.

  6. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    As if the ‘west’ haven’t already intervened, create the problem and then provide the solution. Of course it is coincidence that Mali is rich in natural resources that need to be ‘westernised’.

    Amazing, European states fund and support terrorists, mostly foreign and religious based, to knock off the secular nation of Syria and in Mali, ‘support’ the nation from the exact same terrorist groups, that they fund in Syria, you couldn’t make it up.

    As most neutral commentators are saying, it is all about putting in puppet governments, whether they be secular, fundamentalists or dictators, as long as they do as they are told, by the saints from the lands of zion, global corporatism……pj

  7. avatar

    Interventions of this kind should be left to individual member states, who are best able to judge their interests. Any member may join, for example, the current French intervention effort, but nobody should be obliged or bullied in such a direction. Most of the wars in Africa are part of a colonial heritage, which reminds certain member states only. Historically non-involved countries like Finland or Austria should not have to share the late costs (and advantages) of this.
    Common efforts should only be obligatory if the EU as such or one of its members is attacked in Europe. A common defence of this kind should be developed parallel to NATO.

  8. avatar

    Ansar Dine are one of the many particularly horrible extremist Islamic groups in Africa and letting them capture Mali would’ve been unpalatable to say the least, and in fact letting them control the north of the country was already worrying the international community, so it was probably more a matter of when rather than if.

    Once the EU has got its act together I think we should be looking at providing training and logistical support as soon as possible for Malian troops and other ECOWAS/AU forces. The sooner we can get them up to speed, and to a high level, the better. We’re already seeing British and ECOWAS assistance (the former is thanks to the UK/French defense agreement). What the EU needs to do is provide as much non-combat support as we can.

    We need a proper and realistic exit strategy, and that can only be with cooperation with West Africa.

  9. avatar
    Ivan Drvarič

    West Europeans should initiate forgiving process for all the chaos they initiated in collony times and injustice wellfare that was produced because of abusing collonies and people and chaos in these regions. About interventions guess if France would not intervene than EU would be stigmatized as opportunistic and non-responsible. And someone else would use this opportunity to support killing. Guess now it is too late. Ex Collonisators seems to be incapable to accept the responsibility to find the way how to return to this people their root wisdom and their way of Life. Europe is having enough problems at home. FRance is also on the list of countries with indebtedness. Beside Euroe Union is still selfish community. People are not capableto be compassion with their co-citizen and leave their countries because of money. How such country can have credibility to intervene in other country when their own people are still in confrontation with values how to love own community and own country.

  10. avatar
    Panagiotis Giakoumatos

    Europe should had acted from the beginning as one and not discussing now whether or not to help France. From many points of view is of total interest of both Europe and the people of Mali to prevent the fanatic islamists from taking power.

    22/07/2013 Artis Pabriks, Latvian Minister of Defence, has responded to this comment.

  11. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    Not a lot of people apparently know about Mali, or at least haven’t commented about it. When Bush went to Iraq to prove Muslims can have their own democracy, he should have just taken a look at Mali and Senagal who were Muslim, dirt poor, and against all odds Democratic. It would have been much cheaper and easier to win the hearts and minds of Muslims by supporting these regimes. Since then Senegal has slid into authoritarianism, and Mali has first had a challenge to its territorial integrity from the Taureag rebels and later al Queda, and then as a result slid into military junta rule. Such a tragedy.

    France should intervene not only for the sake of political stability in Mali but also to deny al Queda a base of operations in the Sahara, but the cheaper and easier thing to do would have been 6-7 years ago when all it took was money and not only fired bullet.

    As for colonialism, people need to let this go. I mean we can’t blame things on the Nazis in Europe, no reason to blame stuff on colonialism since it was 50+ years ago. Africa had better potential than East Asian in the 1960s, being resource rich during a commodities boom to industrialize, but it was East Asians with little to no natural resources who built a high tech sector. They were victims of colonialism too. So that excuse wore thin a long time ago.

  12. avatar
    George Papadimitriou

    Jovan, the analysis you are deploying herein appears valid, well structured and educated but, allow me to say, it is on a very academic basis. I prefer, with all due respect, to keep things clear and simple as follows: 1. The americans invaded iraq for the oil, and 2. The words “democracy” and “intervene” never go together. I m afraid it is all about the damn oil mate. Take sudan for example. The “new” border line is exactly over the oil-interesting area. Lybia, same thing. Iran, latin america,…It is much more simple than we think it is I believe. They are making us think complicated but the answer is there. If you ever go to an oilfield in the middle east you will realise that it is guarded better than the rest of the country by private armies (probably americans). Unfortunatelly,I dont think oversimplification is the case here! I really like americans, europeans, everybody really but when it comes to foreign policy games I believe they are all playing the same card…energy.

    • avatar

      I was under the impression there was no oil in Mali. Sure there’s economic reasons for going there but there is a whole host of reasons. Stability of the region, denying the ground the extremists who would attack Europe given the opportunity, protecting the 6000 expats, supporting the fragile democracy in Mali that asked for help, Hollande really hand his hand forced in this case, the political ramifications of inaction would’ve been far worse than taking action.

      “The words “democracy” and “intervene” never go together.”
      Sierra Leone.

      Over simplifying things can be just as unhelpful as making them too complicated. It’s not like we’re incapable of understanding the situation ;)

  13. avatar
    catherine benning

    Well already those who will gain are out in force on this thread.

    Lets find out why first. Why should Europe intervene? Who will benefit and how? How many are likely to be killed, ours and theirs? How do the people of Mali feel about it at ground level? How much is this going to cost us all in additional funds? Who is really at the back of this and what are their true aims? What has Islam got to do with it? Sharia is something Muslims live by. This is a Muslim country in the main. So, what do you really feel it is going to opt for, without our Western intervention? And who is going to gain by that?

    And lastly, is this how this peaceful state of Europe is going to move forward into the future, nothing but a war machine set up to enrich private military companies we fund on every level? Are we simply to become nothing but another appendage of the US Pentagon?

    Take note you states with similar views to Switzerland. This is how it has grown from the time Thatcher took the UK into the Falklands.

    Lets start with Blackwater.

    Mali has been know about for some time.

    And what has this really got to do with Europe? Does anyone want to tell it as it is? It would be good to hear from those without a need to plug their interests.

    It is, after all, in the interests of those who are mercenaries to Western powers. They profit greatly from the tax payers of these states, who, in reality, know very little about what is going on or why. All they know is the private war machines we buy are constantly looking to furthering their business opportunities, hence the growth in the war machine game.

    Look at who are the shareholders or the backbone of these companies dealing in killing. You can start with Dick Cheney. War is big business and big money from us. Is this what a democracy wants as its main business?

    And last, who suffers from this?

  14. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    George, Iraq was definitely for oil. More specifically, for the method of payment. Saddam Hussein in 2002 started accepting only euros for his oil which was exempted from sanctions. But that doesn’t mean America didn’t need an improvement in relations with the Muslim world, and helping Mali and Senegal would have been very helpful and frankly very cheap. That is what America doesn’t know how to do. In the 1960s they spent tens of billions of dollars on South Vietnam and committed hundreds of thousands of troops. The Soviets committed some advisers and $ 1 billion. America spent millions to develop a pen for their space program which would write in a zero gravity environment. Russians just used a pencil. America doesn’t do cost benefit analysis very well. Never had.

  15. avatar
    Georgi Hrisstof

    When several true statements is not resolved in time, they do accumulate, which form a complex structure on the basis of the controversy makes subjective model, objective presence. Complex of inferiority damages of any value if they are not useful.
    European Union to establish a position as negotiating with its Member States and given a mandate to do so. Providing peace of mind around the borders of the European Union can and trade standards, quality …
    More to consolidate and complete their formation, to subscribe priorities to work in a clean …

  16. avatar
    J. Abildgaard

    First of all: As far as I remember – one of the last and, most important promises Hollande gave before elected was ”no more war”!!?? Maybe Mali is ‘just’ another excuse for killing people…in the name of ”peace” off course!? With the Nobel peace price it does seem a bit strange we even have to discuss this? Could these problems not be solved without killing more people or, maybe the excuse now is the same as the one we were given when EU Countries went into Libya?? Didf anyone even think about discussions instead of murders….no they didn’t…correct!?

    With the Danes now entering, we will be sure to see at least a few murders, but I’m sure they can be explained by just a few words of ”accidents” etc…. typical Danish…professional murderers and extremely good at looking ”innocent” and apologizing the ”small mistakes” (the murders) as ”just mistakes” ….sorry but Libya should be a very recent reminder that war and murder is NOT the solution…..

  17. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    Interventions of any kind must be made within the boundaries of international law – and whether a State is a democratic one or not should have little weight on the boundaries of international law.

    Where the UNSC failed Syria most significantly is not military intervention or the removal (or not) of the current leadership, but allowing those things they disagreed upon to blind them to what they could agree upon. – Where was the agreement to allow in the IRC for example and UNSC pressure on Syrian forces on both sides to allow it in?

    Intervention is a double sided coin where even the best intentions have the least expected consequences.

    This is well worth a listen from a man who knows a fair bit about international intervention (and R2P):

  18. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    if we are not a simple machiavellist, for every action should contain the true methods and as well as the the true intentions, of course as much as possible.Namely there must be a moral code either the intentions or the methods. ?nside of this scope sometimes we might result a ruin as natural. Because a stagnancy might occur far too ruin like Syria. Therefore even the collonialism had some moral codes always bu the methods was brutal and merciless. ?f US and/or Europe do not intervene, China and Russia will not be in any inaction probably. A lot of Africans were an American or an Europe already and there are some developed States like South Africa. Besides a democracy contaminates the periphery of itself, if it forces to have some democratic standards as steady. Arab Spring ?nitiative will help to solve of the crisis as well as in my opinion.

  19. avatar
    Trond Johannessen

    We have to preserve the Timbuktu Manuscripts. We know too little about Africa, and its rich history, and the classical ways of an aggressor is to erase the cultural heritage of the people under attack, to impose its own values, culture, beliefs and identity. We must defend the people of Mali and do all we can to stop aggression and assist this nation to share its heritage with the world, and share in the economic opportunity of our planet. It is shameful to allow the people of such a rich nation remain so poor.

  20. avatar

    War, my fellow people, is a very profitable business in itself. As long as it doesn’t happen on our doorsteps, we don’t really mind. We can still sleep well. Alas, the way out of crysis is through finite product. Real value. Resources and the governance ov…

  21. avatar
    George Papadimitriou

    Jovan, it has been proved very difficult or almost even impossible to improve muslim-western relations. perhaps even more costly than the currently used “social enema technique” comprised of initiating chaos and then controlling a puppet government. They have developed through the yrs very complicated and accurate intel analysis/evaluation methods and I would not underestimate them. Russians are another interesting story. Instead of controlling a whole state, they appear to prefer affecting specific important aspects of a state and the job is usually done. The latter is for sure less risky. One way or another, it is warmful for the state itself…

  22. avatar
    Jovan Ivosevic

    Trond, that is undoubtedly the most unrealistic and naive answer I have ever read from a person over the age of 18.

  23. avatar
    Bogdan Mihai Goleanu

    In this moment, I say NO, thinking that France’s airstrike should be enough to calm the spirit and an European intervention might create a break regarding chain of command.

  24. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    @Jovan, ? can understand that why was it comprehended an unrealistic and naive answer by you. But it should be one the most important moral codes for Europe. Of course there must be other moral codes too. Meanwhile firstly Europe should be a responsible why to create and/or to occur and to save a mission to the civilization. Because it was one of the moral codes of collonialism actually, despite of its after the immorality had prevailed also.

  25. avatar
    Serxio Jun

    In my opinion..yes! It’s like a vicious circle , terrorist groops act in developing countries like Mali, civil wars breaks out, people are already poor–> mass immigration towards european countries(Greece for example)–> rise of far right and neonazi groops–> loss of democracy! So for me it is simple: protect the poor countries in Africa and help them exploit their natural resources for their own benefit and not that of the consortiums(multiethnic companies I think)! Of course I must be dreaming of a utopia and that would probably happen in a parallel world

  26. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    as for France to intervene well they got an invitation from the Malian government (to our knowledge at least) so if both countries are happy to work things together then why not? now why should the rest of us be dragged into it? can we get involved in every war that happens near our neighborhood and if yes, will we achieve something beneficial for us or simply we will be accused of being the Crusaders again? Sadly we have already created a bad name for getting involved in wars that we shouldn’t have… Now it is hard to explain to our people, and the Muslim world why we must intervene, with the memories of two unjustified wars in Iraq and Afghanistan…. Is this time for the good of the Malian or European people? Or perhaps for the arms and oil companies? Hard to tell now days…

  27. avatar
    Hasan Özdemir

    Perhaps US and Europe can convict for the Afghanistan disease as technique but Soviet Russia had been started it firstly. But ?raq community will be better than the last of itself soon. Because the oil of ?raq was spent to fight with ?ran by Saddam for a long time. The outcome was far too worse than zero. A crook might ruin a traditional country easily. Meanwhile Bush and Blair had ruined a international law tradition and the trustworthiness of international reports for ?raq War, namely the method was false exactly, despite of the outcome was true.

  28. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    all I know is that Greece and Europe are flooded by Afghan and Iraqi immigrants because we went there to bring them democracy and freedom… I am not so sure about the way we handle things anymore.. And since the economic crisis, after the rubbish I have read about Greece and the Greek people, I do not trust the western media either… They have an agenda.. They push for the agenda of those who offer them lots of money… The same goes for our governments too… Whom I should listen? Whom I should believe? Shall I condone to the potential hundreds or even thousands deaths of civilians and European soldiers for my “security” and the “freedom” of the poor Malians? Whenever I hear a western leader mentioning those two words “freedom” and “democracy” I cringe… In their mouths they sound like something to be wary of…. After they were used to convince us that invading Iraq was justifiable, well they have managed to bring the importance of these two words down a lot…. For the moment I support the French intervention, simply because as far as we know, the government of Mali asked for help, and in my opinion that is the only case that we should ever intervene in another country’s internal affairs… But for the whole Europe to be involved I think we should wait for a UN decision… Also what the hell is the AU (African Union) doing? Why can’t they get involved?

  29. avatar

    I smell a racist colonial war and a resource-grab.

    And who would be interested in propping up this government of Mali which is filled with pro-western puppets placed there to sell resources cheap to the ‘west’?

    Without cheap resources looted from other parts of the world, the ‘west’ is dead, and Hollande the warmonger knows it.

  30. avatar

    It’s a shame that so much of the debate on this topic (not so much here but in other parts of the web) is taken up by conspiracy theorists accusing France of colonialism and resource theft. We all know what colonialism looks like, this is not it. To say it is confuses perceptions and does a disservice to the victims of the awful crimes committed under colonial rule.

    As for resource snatching is any evidence of this happening? Oh and ensuring stability in a country so important trade you already do with them, such as uranium, doesn’t count. What we’re actually seeing today is a European country has decided that it’s best interests match the best interests of the government of Mali and for a variety of legitimate reasons. To castigate the French for basically being ‘evil imperialists’ is pathetically simplistic and ignores the real reasons. The resources will stay in the hands of the companies that own them.

    Deciding that a stable Mali is better for France than an Islamist extremist dominated slaughter house and acting on that decision is the job of the President of France. You can call it self interested if you like but it’s the job of governments to look out for their nations interest and if they have the backing of the incumbent government and UN then it is about as far from colonial imperialism as you can get.

    On a final note, there is no oil in Mali, no matter how many people keep mentioning it as a reason.

  31. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    It seems to me that the question we are all responding to is rather naive to put it bluntly.

    Intervention comes in numerous different methods, not just military intervention. The EU an numerous sovereign states that compromise the EU have been intervening in Mali for a very, very long time in many ways.

    Intervention can be diplomatic, it can be aid, it can be military, it can be FDI – in short it can come in all forms of external assistance and each can be used as a lever within any nation once it is there by those external entities that enable such occurrences

    How much aid, for example, has the EU given to Mali, for what, and what have been the consequences (anticipated or otherwise)? After all the EU has an official “strategy paper” for Mali from 2008 – 2013, so it has been intervening in the affairs of Mali for some considerable time.

    How strong is the connection between Mali an what is now unraveling in Algeria? I suspect there is a solid connection.

    Let us not kid ourselves that the EU and EU sovereign nations have not been intervening in Mali (for good or ill) for some considerable time prior to these events making the headlines and military intervention occurring.

    • avatar

      To be fair to Debating Europe it was fairly clear what they meant by the phrase ‘intervention’. They could’ve said intervention in Africa and we would still know they meant military intervention in Mali even without reading the article.

      But yeah, the EU was interacting with Mali before the invasion and French SF were even apparently on the ground in the north, not to mention the contingent of French troops based in Bamako (a few hundred I think I read somewhere).

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      Maybe some people would benefit from a little research. Having a grasp on reality is always of benefit to the thinker.

      And from another point of view.

      And the EU, now, what is their role in all of this?

      My view is, we should keep out of it, we have no political benefit in real terms to be involved there at all.

      It is given that this Malian problem is a direct result of interferring in Libya and ridding the area of Gaddafi who was keeping a lid on this mess.

      You cannot expect a nation of people to evolve as they should whilst forever trying to engineer their evolutionary process. Our politics and Western thinking does not, in any way, reach the psyche of the different cultures of Africa. It is their journey not ours. Painful as they may be to accept and abide by.

      Would you accept their forces entering the EU and deciding what was in our best interests, whilst knowing full well their best interests were really the driving force.?

  32. avatar

    You are undoubtedly referring to ‘the government of Mali’ which is nothing but a government of neo-colonial puppets installed with western approval after running some sham ‘elections’.

    Why on earth would anyone want to prop up the unnatural colonial borders which were drawn by racist colonial powers grabbing resources? Look at the tribal and ethnic make-up of Africa, these borders make no sense whatsoever and yet so many think these borders should be maintained at any price.

    The ‘terrorist’ element to the AZAWAD uprising is very limited, and the Tuaregs have legitimate right to their own country, in defiance of racist colonial borders that should not be maintained.

    I want Hollande and Fabius arrested and sent to The Hague tribunal. I smell a rat and its obvious the ‘dem ebil terroris’ card is being heavily overplayed here. Besides, many western politicians have told us non-stop the last decade that islam is peaceful so why would there be a problem if they had an islamic government?

  33. avatar
    Jokera Jokerov

    Should the African countries intervene in Greece? Gosh, they did it already, sending thousands of their kind of troops, i.e. the illegal immigrants.

    • avatar

      Don’t forget that the prosperity in Europe sourced from Africa that you have plundered, ask your Dad he can tell better if he doesn’t usually lie to you!

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