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Kinzer on Mali and the Libyan War

Stephen Kinzer reviews the destructive effects that the Libyan war has had on Mali:

This catastrophe did not “just happen.” It is the direct result of an episode that may at first seem unrelated: the US-led intervention in Libya last year. Rarely in recent times has there been a more vivid example of how such interventions can produce devastating unexpected results.

Mali’s misfortunes haven’t gone entirely unnoticed in the West, but even the Western governments that perceive northern Mali as a source of security threats to Europe and west Africa have shown little interest in helping to repair the damage that their war caused. Unfortunately for Mali, one of the things that made the Libyan war relatively unpopular in Western countries, namely a lack of popular interest in the region, is what makes it so easy for supporters of the Libyan war to ignore the consequences of U.S./NATO intervention. If one of the benefits of military intervention “on the cheap” for the U.S. is that it avoids direct American involvement in a given country once the war is over, one of the advantages for interventionists is that they can declare victory, wash their hands of anything that happens later, and pretend that it was a great success. The Libyan war’s effects in Mali have done some real damage to U.S. and allied security interests, and of course those effects have been absolutely disastrous for Mali and quite harmful to many of its neighbors.

Update: The Red Cross has begun relief efforts in northern Mali.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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