French 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.