FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The “Long War” Rhetoric is Back

The bloodshed at the In Amenas gas facility in Algeria has brought into focus the deteriorating situation in north and west Africa and the role of France in the region. The rhetoric of the “long war” against terrorism is back. So is Western military involvement in yet another region. About fifty of the more than eighty people killed in the Algerian siege were foreign and local Arab hostages, captured in the country’s vast southeastern desert.

On the surface, it was difficult to agree with the Algerian government’s assertion, greeted by reluctant nods in Western capitals, that the military operation by Algeria’s special forces was a success. All except a few militants were also killed, but almost certainly they had gone there to die, and kill as many of their hostages as they could to gain worldwide publicity.

Escape across open desert when the Algerian military and others had their eyes on the besieged gas facility was a forlorn hope. The Algerian prime minister, Abdelmalek Sallal, said that among the hostage-takers were Canadian citizens, and the militant group had help of inside knowledge. Canadian passports were found on two charred bodies, and Britain’s Channel 4 News reported there being gunmen also from Algeria, as well as Mali, Niger, and Libya, from where they drove to the remote facility some fifty miles away. These emerging facts contradicted the British Foreign Secretary William Hague’s denial that Western intervention in Libya had fuelled the spread of extremism in north and west Africa.

William Hague, indeed the British and French governments, are in a difficult position. Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan rejected the notion that events in Algeria had nothing to do with Mali to the South and Libya to the east. The fall of Muammar Gaddafi of Libya led to the collapse of his armed forces, and made large numbers of soldiers of Tuareg tribes, who had fought for Gaddafi, leave for neighboring countries including Mali, where a Tuareg rebellion was under way. We have seen this phenomenon before, in Afghanistan, Libya, Syria and elsewhere. Now it is unfolding in North Africa and the Sahel region, dry and barren, with increasing ferocity.

Just as Afghanistan was a United States-led venture from the beginning, Britain and France were particularly aggressive Western players in Libya, ultimately pushing President Barack Obama to join the campaign with U.S. military power to overthrow Col. Gaddafi. We saw France under Nicolas Sarkozy, and Britain under David Cameron, take the lead in political terms in Libya, with Obama “leading from behind.” Arrangements of this kind suit Obama, for he can create the illusion that America is not a unilateralist superpower like it was under George W. Bush. In fact no military venture can possibly succeed without U.S. approval, indeed participation in some form. The distinction is academic.

The leaders of France and Britain have an uncanny resemblance in their passion for war. When they were not in power, Hollande and Cameron appeared reluctant supporters at best, and at times critical of their leaders’ enthusiasm for foreign military expeditions. Now, as they struggle with acute economic difficulties and mass discontent at home, Hollande and Cameron have been quick to assume the status of war leaders.

The French-led intervention, with growing British involvement, in Mali, and possibly in other failing states, risks a scenario similar to Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya. Both France and Britain seek to entice the United States to take on an increasingly bigger military role. Awareness of history and present interests in the region are important to avoid naïve acceptance of official rhetoric. France is the ex-colonial power of Mali, and Britain’s young prime minister shows the old imperial temperament long after the British Empire was lost.

France and Britain connive with Mali’s military junta, which is barely in control of events following two coups in 2012 that destroyed an imperfect democratic system in that impoverished country. It would have been far more preferable to intervene to strengthen the political institutions, and thus prevent the insubordinate military officers. Are such follies a symptom of a pathological instinct in great powers of the past and present to leave it till it is too late, and then go with all guns blazing? Or is their aim to control territory and resources of others through client regimes lacking legitimacy?

Chinese investment in Africa over the years also must be checked for the West’s access to energy and raw materials. France had made a strategic decision to go for nuclear power in the wake of the 1973 Arab oil embargo. Four decades on, more than three-fourths of electricity needed is generated in about sixty nuclear plants spread all over France. Mali’s confirmed and potential deposits of uranium amount to seventeen thousand tons or more; then there is gold; and Mali, Niger, Libya as well as Nigeria together have vast oil wealth. There is a lot to fight for, but there could be a heavy price to pay.

Deepak Tripathi is a British historian at the University of Roehampton in London. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be contacted at: deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com.  

 

More articles by:

Deepak Tripathi is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. His works can be found at: http://deepaktripathi.wordpress.com and he can be reached at deepak.tripathi.writer@gmail.com.

August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail