Questions about Mali

Until about a week ago, I couldn’t find Mali on a map—except that I knew to look in Africa. I knew that it was a poor nation. But I didn’t even know that it was previously known as French West Africa. I should have known more, but I just didn’t. We Americans are not very good at knowing stuff about Africa.  At least this American isn’t. And I’m not proud of that fact.

Now, suddenly, I’m learning that France is using fighter jets against a radical Islamic faction in Mali, and I know nothing about that, either. And as the news trickles out—particularly the news that the U.S. has been helping France with logistics, and that they’re asking for even more help—I’m starting to worry. Isn’t this how things started in Vietnam, when the U.S. got gradually more and more involved after a French military debacle in its former colony? Is there a new “domino theory” at work? Are we—and by “we” I mean U.S. foreign-policy decision-makers—operating on the premise that radical Islam, like communism, will spread from one country to another? [I’m old enough to remember newsreels that showed a scary red communist blob oozing across eastern Europe and Southeast Asia.]  In this view of the world, is Al Qaida the new Viet Cong? And, by the way, were the Cold War theories on which we based our military actions ever borne out in fact?

I listened to President Obama’s second inaugural speech and felt good when I heard him say that America doesn’t need to be in a perpetual state of war.  I hope he can stick to that conviction.

I suspect that I’m at the first stage of this news story—the one where I have very little information on which to form an opinion. I intend to upgrade that status. Right now, though, all I have are questions. But at this stage, questions seem more important than answers—especially at the decision-making level.   I just hope that events don’t overtake the president so quickly that he doesn’t have a chance to ask the questions that seem not to have been asked when the U.S. entangled itself in previous conflicts.

Gloria Shur Bilchik Gloria Shur Bilchik (466 Posts)

Gloria Shur Bilchik is a freelance writer and community volunteer in St. Louis, Missouri. She is the editor of Occasional Planet. She views the preservation of progressive values as vital to making the US a humane, livable place for her children and grandchildren.


  • Suejimdoer

    I’m as in the dark as you are about Africa, but I have a theory to offer.  The neo-cons want major wars so they can use their really big and ferocious weapon systems. That’s why they want a war with Iran.  It’s not about “radical Islam.”  It’s about justifying billions spent on military contracts.  Also, Muslims who feel strongly about their religion are doing the same thing “radical Christians” are doing here in the U.S.  The only difference is that the American extremists use political and social weapons rather than missiles.

    Sort of “missals” instead of “missiles.”

  • bennnnnnnn???!!

    I’ve seen the headlines on France being in Mali.  Coming from a guy who has fought in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I can say that radical Islamists are probably few and far between, just as radical Christians are also few and far between (I used to be one.)  Having been a radical Christian at one point in my life I could spot the “Sunday Christians” out from the herd, the ones that prayed for forgiveness on Sunday and then lived life on their own terms the rest of the week.

    When it comes to radicals in any group, they go against the grain of society and because of that they stick out more.  They’re noticed, they get attention, their voices are heard.  Being completely 110% devoted to whatever cause can be good for the world and sometimes it can be bad.  In the case with Mali, Al Qaeda needs to be shut down.  I recently read a rather lengthy article about Al Qaeda burning down a library that contained around 1300 years’ worth of texts prior to losing their hold on the capitol to the French military.  Luckily the curator for this library had been secretly moving a lot of the texts to a safer location far away and not much was lost, I think the article said about 5% of everything was destroyed.