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The Libyan Spillover Into Mali Is a Lesson in Noninterventionism

The Tuareg rebels have declared independence for the region of Azawad, in northern Mali. France, the EU, and the AU have rejected the declaration. The declaration comes after the recent rebellion in Mali, which has seen the junta ousted from power. This development is not that surprising. The Tuaregs have been launching rebellions for decades, and have long protested against negligence of the government in Bamako. The declaration is only rhetoric; it is not possible for Azawad to become independent without any international cooperation. What is worth noting is the history behind this specific rebellion, and what it reveals about the unintended consequences of our foreign policy. While the war in Libya is over, there are notable looming conflicts that invite us to make similar mistakes soon.

Over at Eunomia, Daniel has been documenting how the war in Libya has caused a worrying amount of instability in the region, and has displaced mercenaries on the payroll of the Gaddafi regime. Although the war in Mali has resulted in the prompt removal of a government, those who would typically condemn our involvement in Libya and the inevitable blowback have been absent from the discussion.

Elsewhere on the African continent, there are more calls for U.S. involvement. The Invisible Children campaign recently released a sequel to their first social media hit. The Lord’s Resistance Army is in many ways a more worrying situation than that in Libya. The LRA is active in numerous countries, many of which (such as The Democratic Republic of Congo) are in no position to organize resistance to a mobile fighting force. The nature of the conflict, specifically the mobility and tactics of the LRA and its transnational setting, make U.S. involvement difficult and unwise. Yet this is exactly what is being argued for.

The blowback from our involvement in central Africa would be just as destabilizing as the blowback in Mali. What makes the LRA more worrying than the Tuaregs is the fact that the LRA does not have a specific political goal. The only goal of the LRA is an increase in violence. There have been numerous attempts to bring the LRA to the negotiating table, so far without success. A displaced fanatical militia and an increase in the inevitable anti-Americanism that would result from our involvement is worrying scenario. The picture becomes even more gloomy if one considers that many of the militaries and police forces that we would be working with are themselves guilty of human rights abuses.

While at the time our involvement in Libya may have seemed one of our more easily justified foreign excursions, the situation in Mali should give anyone who is thinking about similar operations abroad pause. What the current administration decides to do in response to the situations in countries such as Syria, Uganda, Somalia, etc. will be interesting to see. One hope that they will have learned from Libya and the suffering now imposed on Mali. I won’t get my hopes up.

Image: Shutter Lover / shutterstock

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