Intervention in Mali: for or against


#1

Do you believe the US should get involved in Mali? France is pushing hard for an intervention. Is it worth it to try?


#2

I can sympathise with the ethnic insurgent groups fighting for independence in their areas, in this case the Tuaregs, as their nations got completely screwed by the artificial national borders left after decolonisation. So I wouldn’t support an intervention that goes in just to enforce the former status quo and help the internationally recognised Malian government.

The other insurgent groups there, the various Jihadist ones, need to be crushed without a doubt, but nearly every intervention against Jihadists just seems to breed more.

Ideally for me, the Tauregs and Malian government should negotiate, with the Tauregs relinquishing their claims to territory outside of the Taureg-majority area (the Malian army was useless and the Taureg group managed to bite off a lot more than just their own territory), and Mali can give up the territory that is majority-Taureg and recognize a Taureg state. Then a foreign intervention working in conjunction with both of those parties to rout the Islamists may be acceptable. If the national question isn’t dealt with first it will be another overly complicated conflict with national as well as sectarian elements, and animosity or fighting between the Malian army and the Tauregs, which will only strengthen the Islamist position.

Still, any intervention or even aid needs to be strictly planned and monitored. Africa, just like the ME, is riddled with different fighter groups and the West cannot continue to give support based on “The enemy of my enemy is my friend”. And intervention needs to be: go in with everything necessary to complete the objective ASAP (without any consideration of this stupid idea of “proportional response”), complete the objectives, and get out, at most leaving some cooperation program to help train local soldiers or advise their officers so they can defend themselves in the future.


#3

In principle at least not an unreasonable analysis, Volk, assuming intervention is appropriate. Need smelling salts? In principle, intervention (if any) would be most appropriately be by African neighbors, but in reality that would likely turn horrible (just as African and UN intervention in West Africa has been horrible). And speaking of reality …

France may be pushing for it (Mali having been part of France’s colonial empire), but is outside intervention even appropriate? Is splintering the right solution for tribalism/Balkanization (a European analog)? Or would it worsen it by feeding it and giving tribal hatreds secure power bases? And a practical question, is the majority-Tuareg area large enough and sufficiently contiguous to be an economically viable nation?


#4

[quote=“Volk, post:2, topic:37641”]
The other insurgent groups there, the various Jihadist ones, need to be crushed without a doubt, but nearly every intervention against Jihadists just seems to breed more.
[/quote]Jihadists need to be crushed wherever they are and in a way that teaches a lesson to other jihadists. As far as rescuing Mali as a nation that is probably impossible given the lack of any serious national identity.


#5

Yea, numerous interventions in Africa have served as prime examples of the many problems with this kind of action. Disregarding for the moment whether intervention can be seen as legitimate/appropriate or not, just for the sake of discussion assume it is justified and therefore should be executed as effectively as possible. After all, these must be the assumptions that those responsible for the missions operate on. The UN peacekeeping of today is almost completely useless. We saw this a short while ago when M23 rebels took over Goma (a regional capital in the Eastern DR Congo) and the outlying area- the Congolese military fled and the UN forces simply observed the rebel occupation happen around them, even though they were a numerically superior force, no doubt much better armed and trained, and with air support at their disposal, if I’m not mistaken. This inaction is also despite the fact that resolutions which give the peacekeepers their mandate, like UNSC 1376, specifically affirm Congolese territorial integrity. The RoE for UN forces (or at least for the mission in DR Congo) don’t allow them to use force unless taking fire or acting jointly with the national army, or in case of an “imminent threat of physical violence to civilians”, and only in the areas where their infantry battalions are stationed- if they are attacked they can’t pursue after a certain point, which from a military standpoint is just idiotic. So the MONUSCO forces could really easily have upheld their mandate and protected DR Congo’s national integrity, but weren’t allowed to because official forces had fled.

Why constrain the powers these troops have to such a great extent, especially when it is known that a sizable portion of situations demanding peacekeepers will arise in places where the national military is incapable in just about every way it can be- poor, disorganised, unable to maintain troop loyalty or morale, officers that sell weapons to the enemy, etc.
So, one change that could be implemented very easily and at no cost- make agreements with host nations whereby UN forces can act in the national military’s absence, subject to approval from some level in the national chain of command (which, I’m sure, would not mind being given time to regroup and then simply re-enter UN-defended territory, rather than expending lives and resources to regain it).

This alone would bring massive results in making missions effective, obviously I’m not the first to think of it so I wonder on what principle it is rejected. Someone from MONUSCO commented on the aforementioned situation saying something to the effect of UN peacekeepers not being there to replace the national army- obviously they are not, but why should the UN commander in the field be disallowed from judging whether action should be taken or not, and then seeking approval from the national authorities? That way the UN troops aren’t under any obligation to put themselves at risk alone but can if it would be beneficial, and national sovereignty wouldn’t be violated by foreign troops taking action independently because they would have to seek the host’s approval.

Another practical aspect, which you mentioned, Pete: where it would be most appropriate to draw peacekeepers from. I think it should be judged on a case-by-case basis, taking into account any ulterior motives a potential contributor nation may have in putting forces into a country, as well as whether there is any ethnic/religious/historical/political/etc animosity between the populaces of the potential contributor and host. These conditions make neighbouring nations some of the least likely picks for peacekeeping force contributors, at least in Africa and the Middle East. I will again use DR Congo as an example because I just know the most about it off the top of my head- neighbouring Rwanda is allegedly arming the rebels and plundering East Congolese mineral deposits. IIRC, neighbours Uganda and Burundi have at times supported rebel factions as well.

Georgia exemplifies this point as well- from the time when Abkhazia and South Ossetia won de facto independence in 1992, the peacekeeping in and around South Ossetia was done by a Joint Peacekeeping Force made up of Russian, Georgian, and South Ossetian contingents (equal members of the force), overseen by the “Joint Control Commission”, made up of the 3 parties mentioned just now plus North Ossetia (an autonomous republic of the Russian Federation- the Ossetian national homeland had been divided between the Georgian and Russian SSRs in the early days of Soviet rule), also all equal members. Obviously, with Georgia seeking to regain control over South Ossetia, South Ossetia intent on maintaining independence and achieving international recognition, Russia looking to regain influence in the former USSR, and absolutely no chance of a negotiated resolution due to the fact that either Georgia or South Ossetia would have to give up its most basic demand, there was no way this mission could be successful. It was marred from the start by periodic low-intensity incidents like mortal shellings and culminated in Georgia’s 2008 attempt to retake the territory by surprise, without even withdrawing from the peacekeeping mission.

My point is that ‘blue helmets’ MUST be drawn from nations with as little stake in the conflict as possible, otherwise situations like Libya arise, where the “peacekeepers” just advance their national geopolitical goals while wielding the ability to dismiss criticism by pointing to a UNSC resolution. One of my options for a PoliSci essay last semester was “Is UN peacekeeping the new imperialism”, and there are certainly enough examples to make a case for that being true.

The US, as the current hegemonic power and with global influence and interests, should not participate in peacekeeping missions. This is just the largest example, not a dig at the US- any state will most likely attempt to assert its own interests in another, given the chance. So, ideally for me, supposing Mexico were to need a peacekeeping mission, the troops should come from places like India, Germany, etc, whose cultures and history don’t conflict with those of Mexico and who lack motives to abuse their position there.

France may be pushing for it (Mali having been part of France’s colonial empire), but is outside intervention even appropriate? Is splintering the right solution for tribalism/Balkanization (a European analog)? Or would it worsen it by feeding it and giving tribal hatreds secure power bases? And a practical question, is the majority-Tuareg area large enough and sufficiently contiguous to be an economically viable nation?

Thought-provoking, multifaceted questions.

By “is outside intervention even appropriate” do you specifically mean the current situation in Mali or are you asking the broader question of “Is national sovereignty supreme, or are there situations that mandate violating it without the nation being outwardly aggressive?” Assuming you meant the former- I think intervention is appropriate in this case, but my opinion here is not objective because of my fear of Jihadist expansion. However, I only think it is appropriate if they can be absolutely routed in the area, otherwise the conflict just leads to more Jihadists. Has there been even one real victory against them in modern times? I suppose Chechnya and the surrounding republics would come closest, but even there, Russia had to accept a former rebel commander who once said “every Chechen must kill 150 Russians” as President of the Chechen Republic, he got blown up by some separatists who kept fighting and now has a Hero of Russia award (the highest medal possible, and his having it implies ) and a street and memorial in Moscow- for a person who participated in ethnic cleansing of Russians- disgusting! And his son now runs the republic like a personal fiefdom, has a private army, and slowly introduces Islamic laws like requiring women to cover their heads in government buildings, while Muslim regions get up to 10x more spending from the federal budget than the average in order to keep them pacified. But I’ve gone off topic.

Assuming you mean the latter, my opinion may vary somewhat based on the details of a case, but in principle I believe national sovereignty is supreme. There is a popular quote or saying in Russia that goes “Every nation deserves its government”- meaning if a government works badly, is immoral, is ineffective- the fault lies with the citizenry, who allow this government to exist and cannot control it, etc.

More importantly though, the international system is anarchic, there is no authority to decide when intervention is appropriate and when it isn’t, which means there is room for an unlimited number of standards for justification, and for the uneven application of the same standard, if it suits the intervening party. The UNSC is the closest thing the world has to a global setter of such standards, and it is so democratically deficient and influenced by the Veto members (who still get special privileges for something that happened almost 7 decades ago) that regarding it as legitimate is laughable. And since it is dominated by great powers who will at some point or other be justifying or blocking intervention (whatever their interests dictate in the situation), it is completely biased. Therefore, the current structure of the international system precludes a legitimate way to justify military intervention from outside as a part of the “Responsibility to Protect”, as the UN calls it, because there would have to be a set standard applied equally across the board- obviously, China won’t be invaded for its actions in Tibet, while a weaker state could be for similar actions. It will be used as a justification, by powers strong enough to do so, for military action necessary for political or economic gain.

Whether splintering or trying to reconcile differences within a national unit is a better approach depends on a multitude of factors, ranging from the type of government and the power of subnational governments, to which cultures are in conflict, how the area is doing economically and what splintering would mean for the regional economy, as well as many more. Tatarstan, a republic on the Volga which is split approximately equally between Muslims and Christians and has slightly more Tatar than Russian residents, proclaimed independence in 1990 but was peacefully coaxed into the Russian Federation with some grants of autonomy, and are now a prosperous autonomous republic, which has for centuries been the site of peaceful coexistence between different ethnic and religious groups, even though they have known conflict in the past.

The Chechens, on the other hand, started their bid for independence by throwing the leader of the local administration out of the council window and eventually won something more than de facto independence- Federal forces were withdrawn from the republic and the Chechens were left to administer themselves and provide for their own defense, while a negotiated decision on the final relationship between the Chechen Republic and the Russian Federation would be put on hold for up to five years. That was at the treaty of Khasav-Yurt, 1995 just one concession made to the separatists/Jihadists after the First Chechen War- Yeltsin also agreed to pay them reparations for example, despite the ethnic cleansing of Russians that had occurred, which no Chechen militant was held accountable for. Around half a year after Khasav-Yurt, another top-ranking Chechen came to Moscow for negotiations and signed an accord on “peace and the foundations of Russian-Chechen relations”.

After successfully kicking out the broken post-Soviet Russian army, then normalising relations and, as demonstrated by the aforementioned treaties, achieving de facto independence with a shot at upping it to de jure in the future, what did they do? Chechnya descended into a state of near-anarchy run by Islamist warlords, central control in the republic failed and elements of Sharia law were put in place. Warlords who had free reign in Chechnya raised an army with the stated aims of establishing an Emirate in the Caucasus and cleansing it of Russians. In 1999, using Chechnya as a staging ground, they invaded the neighbouring Russian republic of Ingushetia, and in doing so prompted the Second Chechen War after being repelled, causing Chechnya to come firmly back into Russia’s grip.

So that was an example of splintering giving tribal/religious hatred a secure power base, but as contrasted with Tatarstan, it really depends on the culture, among other things. The question is, is it a nation whos people generally just want to live secure lives and believe they have a right to determine their own country’s fate? Or is it a nation of warmongering barbarians who will happily destroy the secular independent order they fought to achieve and replace it with a lawless outpost for international jihad, or something similarly aggressive? Both plintering and coexisting on negotiated terms work for civilised nations like the Czechs and Slovaks, Russians and Tatars, Russians and the whole bunch of other republics we released in 1991 because it was their right under the Soviet constitution.

I know very little about the Taureg people so it’s hard for me to speculate what a Taureg state would be like, but they seem not to be the extremist type of Muslim. From what little I read, their motivation in all the conflicts they have been involved in since colonisation seems to be a desire for self-determination, not any fundamentalism. As for the physical properties of the area they dominate, this map suggests it has no problems in terms of size or contiguity, seems to me like it could be a viable state. The level of development of infrastructure there hardly even matters, since Tauregs are nomadic.


#6

Are there the same amount of resources in Tatarstan as there are in Chechnya? There’s a long history in Chechen/Russo conflict. There’s also a long history of clans in Chechnya, and also violence among them. It should have and probably was predicted that a Chechen state would soon turn into faction warfare. Of course these clans banned together as soon as the foreign invader (Russia) entered territory. Each clan a wolf, when another enters territory then forms the wolf pack right?

From what I’ve read then the decision to invade Chechnya came mostly from the elite in Russia in order to make more money.

I may be wrong, I have no doubt you’re more well informed than I.


#7

Back to the topic, the Tuaregs don’t seem to be zealots. But I believe the concern comes more from the instability that they’ve brought, this breeds extremists.


#8

Yea, it’s actually one of Russia’s most important regions economically and well-off by living standards, largely due to resources but their economy is more diversified compared to many other regions (their main oil company, Tatneft, is 10th in Russia, 500bil revenue pa, but over 150 other companies work there in the oil sphere, total reserves are estimated 1.75 billion tonnes and around 25% of Russian oil production comes out of Tatarstan.) It’s also something like the second most industralised city in Russia and has an HDI of 0.812 (2004 data), which is the same as East EU countries like Poland or Lithuania. It even conducts some sizable foreign trade relations on its own.

There’s a long history in Chechen/Russo conflict.

Russian relations with Chechnya began in the XVI century, when Chechens were returning from mountains to the plains/valleys their ancestors had lived in before the Mongol Horde came in. By this time, when they were returning, a group of Russian Cossacks had set up a castle on the river Terek in Chechnya, and the two groups established amicable relations. In 1588 the Chechens sent an ambassador to Moscow (which was by this time the young Russian empire, not Muscovy). Chechen soldiers participated on the Russian side in wars with the Ottomans, the Persians, and the Crimean Khanate. Hostilities started only in 1708, when some discontented deserter Cossacks along with Chechens and some other Caucasian minorities attacked the Terek castle and were put down, but this marked the start of about a century of sporadic conflicts between Russians and Caucausians, who were at times used as support troops or a proxy army by the Ottoman empire and toward the end of the 18th century became more radically Islamic. In 1817 Russia started its nearly half-century campaign to fully incorporate the Caucasus into the empire, to outweigh the regional rival powers, Ottomans and Persia, whom Russia had warred individually multiple times in recent years. The venture was successfully completed in 1864, but intermittent uprisings continued, while Russia created social infrastructure (schools, etc) there so they stopped living as mountain-tribesmen. Reminds me of now actually, sporadic terrorist attacks (some very successful) and Russia spending huge amounts of money to keep the general populace content and keep the elites pockets lined. Kadyrov spends that money on importing football players, FFS.

.
That’s the spending per capita of federal budget money in each Caucasian region. Notice that the two which aren’t majority Muslim, (North Ossetia-Alania and Stavropol) get the least.

There’s also a long history of clans in Chechnya, and also violence among them. It should have and probably was predicted that a Chechen state would soon turn into faction warfare. Of course these clans banned together as soon as the foreign invader (Russia) entered territory. Each clan a wolf, when another enters territory then forms the wolf pack right?

Yea, that is true as well and I’m sure it was not just predicted but watched over by the intelligence services. As for the wolf pack thing, in the first Chechen war they were more or less united, but as they enjoyed their independence by sliding into factionalism they were driven apart from each other, with one group under Kadyrov senior defecting and Russia using Kadyrov senior to administer Chechnya, but another faction kept fighting, blowing up Kadyrov senior in 2004, now his son rules the republic. The remnants of the insurgency have really been crippled over the years since now they’re fighting the local Kadyrov government (which has its own military) as well as Russian federal forces. No respected leaders left, attacks are rare, the Caucasian economies are growing (seriously, look at Grozny in google images) and so youths aren’t joining insurgencies anymore, it’s a barely significant force in the hills. Although I still won’t consider it a victory until we have a Russian or a normal Chechen in power there, not paying tribute to the corrupt son of a defector who fought against Russia and is still radically Islamic at heart.

From what I’ve read then the decision to invade Chechnya came mostly from the elite in Russia in order to make more money.

I may be wrong, I have no doubt you’re more well informed than I.

The decision to invade which time, and to make money in what way, you mean personal wealth or oil and such? It is an important region in economic terms, it is also just unacceptable to have on your border a cancerous tumor staging ground of Islamic fanatics who actually have the audacity to attack you after you give major concessions and reparations, and which attracts better-connected, foreign terror agents to make contacts.


#9

I mean the power elite began having difficulties growing their personal wealth from doing corrupt things (best way to put it) within Chechnya so they invaded.

I wrote a paper on the Chechen/Russo conflict, interesting history


#10

… it is also just unacceptable to have on your border a cancerous tumor staging ground of Islamic fanatics who actually have the audacity to attack you after you give major concessions and reparations, and which attracts better-connected, foreign terror agents to make contacts.

A very interesting comment …

That aside, thank you for the background info, Volk. I’d read some about Stalin’s oppressions of minorities in Gulag Archipelago and was generally aware of Czarist Russia’s expansion into the Caucasus (not exactly unconnected), but that filled in some gaps.


#11

No problem. You probably heard of them in Gulag Archipelago, as the Chechen population. along with some others who had proven by past actions that they had a high chance of collaborating, even almost as a single unit. Unarguably it’s an oppression, but Total War changes what is acceptable and what is not.


#12

Volk, do you consider the counter insurgency operation that took place against the Chechens to have been successful?

If yes, do you believe that the method used by Russia is the most effective way of combatting an insurgency? It’s a method that the US cannot use without citizen outcry, I just find it ironic that the US spends such a large amount of time to develop COIN strategies when it’s possible that the answer is actually very simple.

I could be incorrect but I believe that the model currently used by decision makers in the US is the SWORD model developed by the retired lt. Colonel that teaches at my university.

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/152-fishel.pdf?q=mag/docs-temp/152-fishel.pdf


#13

France can do whatever they want.

The US should not be involved.


#14

Why not?


#15
  1. Not our business
  2. We’re broke

#16

Ha alright I just couldn’t let you say your piece then drop the mic and walk away


#17

A specific period of the counterinsurgency since the breakup of the USSR or as a whole?
Everything about the first Chechen war was a disaster, carpet bombing your own citizens is obviously not acceptable, and there was no strategy involved, I won’t go into details because it’s easily to google it, search for things like Maikop brigade.

Even the 2nd war had its huge mistakes- battle for height 776 for example- but even though it resulted in “victory” in terms of securing territorial integrity, this is at the cost of taking in a traitor from the other side, with loads of Russian blood on his hands, and letting him (now his son) administer the region and bribing them from the federal budget, so I don’t consider this a real victory. Still, since then the counterinsurgency has been successful because as the regional economy grows people don’t want to become fighters. That is really an important factor in all of these conflicts. But it’s one thing to do “nation building” in your own country and another to do it abroad.

Honestly I think if we are going to hold on to some of these territories in the long-term they need to be Russified, but there’s no way to do that now without major international outcry except by diluting the native population with Russians to a very large extent (hard to do with the demographic crisis and the comparative rates at which Russians and Chechens reproduce), since we can’t do population transfers and such anymore in peacetime.


#18

A show of legitimate govt in those countries may work. It’s important that Russia show that the people of those regions are not alienated and the Russian govt still represents their concerns


#19

[quote=“Volk, post:17, topic:37641”]
Honestly I think if we are going to hold on to some of these territories in the long-term they need to be Russified, but there’s no way to do that now without major international outcry except by diluting the native population with Russians to a very large extent (hard to do with the demographic crisis and the comparative rates at which Russians and Chechens reproduce), since we can’t do population transfers and such anymore in peacetime.
[/quote]That reproduction could be limited by means of cutting social subsidies.


#20

Russification would not be good. The Chechens have a very unique culture, and it would be a shame for it to be destroyed.