This is reminding us that things could change, our nations may be ready to defend themselves
PARIS. And suddenly it’s war! President François Holland announced early Friday evening that French troops had intervened in Mali and would stay as long as necessary. The military action came in response to an urgent request from Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traoré whose army was unable to stop the advance of a column of some 1500 Islamists that had taken Konna and were heading for Mopti, a strategic town on the route to the capital, Bamako. Surprising enough in itself, this abrupt open-ended military operation ordered by the slow-moving socialist president offers a gold mine of lexical accuracy that should not be squandered. This war is upsetting the Arab Spring apple cart and tossing its fruits into a different basket.
I am not on the front lines… but then again, the front lines are everywhere today and that is what we might call the collateral benefits of this military operation and its enveloping narrative. The exact terms that are deliberately not used to describe the gentlemen of Hamas, Hizbullah, Muslim Brotherhood or the punks in Europe’s banlieues are now pinned on the jihadis who have been occupying the northern deserts of Mali. Unlike the Brotherhood and its multiple affiliates, these Islamists have not had a good press in France. Their brutality has been abundantly displayed: flogging adulterers, amputating thieves, imposing niqab, smashing up bars, restaurants, and music joints, tearing the tombs of Muslim saints in Timbuktu. They have always been shown in a scary light, their heads wrapped in scarves, weapons brandished. In fact, they look just like their fellow warriors in Libya, Syria, wherever. But somehow these religious extremists were not seen to have any redeeming features.
Still, the occupation dragged on and there was no audible call for quick action. Reports of an ECOWAS intervention scheduled for September were almost comical; as if the bad guys, duly informed of the timetable, would park their trucks, sit in the shade and palaver, patiently waiting for the big battle. Eight French hostages who worked for the French nuclear consortium AREVA have been in the hands of these thugs for over a year. This too was accepted with calm verging on boredom. No big mobilizations like the ones for French journalists kidnaped in Iraq. The Left doesn’t fancy the nuclear industry!
By the time the president announced that we are at war most TV channels were already in weekend mode, but the independent all-news BFM-TV has been covering the story non-stop. Here is the picture that emerges: with the exception of the president’s far left friends and foes—the Communists, Jean-Luc Melenchon, Noël Mamère of the Greens, and the anti-capitalists —political leaders across the board immediately declared their unambiguous support for the intervention. They also supported then President Sarkozy’s forceful leadership in the Libyan operation which actually fed into the Islamist offensive in Mali, but that is another story and we live in a time of disjointed narratives that will someday be joined. A host of specialists have appeared in the media and their opinions are close to unanimous.