“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s third law of physics.
Its counterpart in geopolitics is “blowback,” when military action in one sphere produces an unintended and undesirable consequence in another.
September 11, 2001, was blowback.
George H.W. Bush had sent an army of half a million to hurl Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait, a triumph. He proceeded to impose severe sanctions on the Iraqis and to build U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia.
“Infidel” soldiers on sacred Islamic soil and the suffering of the Iraqi people under American sanctions were two of the causes Osama bin Laden listed in his declaration of war on the United States.
Our 3,000 dead on 9/11 were blowback for having established a neo-imperial presence in the Arabian Peninsula after Desert Storm.
In the African nation of Mali today, where al-Qaida and allies have seized the northern half of the country, Azawad, as large as Texas, we are witnessing blowback for President Obama’s intervention in Libya.
How so? Due almost entirely to U.S.-backed NATO bombing, which prevented Moammar Gadhafi from crushing the uprising of 2011, the colonel was overthrown and murdered by rebels.
Tauregs from Mali, whom Gadhafi had brought into his army, fled or were expelled from Libya. Taking their heavy weapons, they returned to a country where their people had been mistreated and seized its northern half, to secede and create their own nation.
But the jihadists who fought alongside them to capture the north turned on them and drove them from power. Ansar Dine and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb – like the Taliban in Afghanistan who blew up the ancient Bamiyan Buddhas – then blew up all non-Islamic shrines and imposed a brutal form of Sharia law. Adulterers are subject to stonings. Thieves have their hands amputated.
This is but part of the strategic disaster, however. The U.S.-trained Malian army collapsed in the face of the rebellion. U.S.-trained Malian troops defected to the jihadists. A Malian captain trained at Ft. Benning overthrew the democratic government in Bamako and seized power.
This situation had festered for 10 months. Then, this month, the jihadists occupied Konna and threatened Mopti, south of the dividing line, and Islamists entering Mali from Mauritania seized Diabaly, only 250 miles from Bamako. The whole of Mali seemed about to fall to al-Qaida
France, whose colony Mali was, reacted. President Francois Hollande sent planes to bomb the Islamists and 2,500 French soldiers to recapture Diabaly. That battle is now underway.
The 16-nation Economic Community of West African States has talked of raising an army to recapture the north. Thus far it has been just that, talk. While the United States has provided logistical and intelligence support to the French, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says there will be no U.S. boots on the ground.
French troops and air power can probably clear and hold the south, but who is going to march north to drive AQIM and its allies out?
Twenty-five hundred French soldiers could not both invade and hold Azawad. Even should they recapture northern towns like Timbuktu, they could not hold the region against a determined guerrilla war that al-Qaida and its allies could mount.
Yet Hollande says he will restore the territorial integrity of Mali.
French bombing is already causing civilian casualties. This could produce blowback in France, where thousands of Malians have emigrated. Many French yet remember the homeland terrorism as they fought their eight-year war from 1954 to 1962 to hold Algeria.
This week’s seizure of Western hostages in Algeria is Islamist retaliation for Algeria’s having allowed France to use its airspace in the attacks in Mali. And as Syria’s civil war has brought jihadis on the run, an Islamist war against France in the Sahel region of Africa could do the same.
And how would Muslims of an inflamed Middle East accept another Western war against soldiers of the Prophet?
While Mali is of little geostrategic value, a huge and secure base camp for al-Qaida in northern Mali presents serious problems for the United States.
Al-Qaida in Mali is reportedly in contact with the terrorists of Boko Haram, who have been murdering Christians and burning their churches in Nigeria. And the reports that Islamists entered Mali from Mauritania suggest this cancer is metastasizing.
What should be done?
The United States cannot fight Mali’s war. No vital interest is imperiled there, and this could lead to an Afghanistan in the heart of Africa. But if America is not going to take the lead in recapturing the Azawad for Mali, who is? France? ECOWAS? NATO? Algeria?
Without America, the will is not there, the weapons are not there, the troops are not there.
As we consider our options, however, let us hear no more from President Obama about al-Qaida being “on the run” and “on the path to defeat.”
© 2013 CREATORS.COM
“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” is Newton’s third law of physics.
Starting over at Head Start
All I ever wanted to be was a journalist. Having worked on my high school and college newspapers, I knew it was the career for me.
I love talking to people, listening to their stories, being creative every day and experiencing new things. But as you know, news happens outside the hours of 9 to 5, and my job here at the Register rarely stayed within that time frame.
They don’t make strawberries as they did back in the old days
I’m not inclined to go through my archives at the moment, but it almost feels like the column I’m about to write has almost become an annual thing over the years.
At least I know for sure that that this is not the first time that memories of picking strawberries there on Blair Branch on hot days in June has triggered this keyboard about this time of year.
I grew up on a little subsistence, hillside farm deep in the mountains of eastern Kentucky, among the coalfields near the Virginia line.
Baby boomers have let technology rob their grandchildren of the joys of youth
When I was growing up, it was not uncommon to see fathers and sons along creek banks fishing together or in the woods hunting squirrels or pitching horse shoes or even shooting marbles late in the afternoon in the cool hours before dark.
Dads were teaching kids to play the games they grew up with. Little girls, learned from mothers,how to skip rope, play with jacks or play hopscotch.
No Lincoln or Douglas in this debate
Remember the famous slap-down in the 1988 vice presidential debate when Republican Dan Quayle compared his youth and limited government experience to those of John Kennedy’s when Kennedy ran for president?
His Democratic opponent, Texas Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, acidly replied: “I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”
Senate campaign already in full bloom
Any hope for a respite in the U.S. Senate campaign following Tuesday’s primary disappeared immediately.
Mitch McConnell and Alison Lundergan Grimes came out swinging in victory speeches which sounded like campaign kickoffs.
McConnell commended Matt Bevin on “a tough (primary) race” and appealed to Bevin supporters to unite behind his re-election bid. That will be hard for Bevin and those who backed him.
‘Taxpayer-eaters’ meet ‘self-serving politician-eaters’
What some candidates could gain in this year’s election – beyond just winning office – is a stark reminder of how wrong political leaders were when declaring last year they had adequately addressed Kentucky’s public-pension crisis.
Instead, legislators with serious courage deficiencies failed to agree on reforms beyond what they believe are “politically feasible.”
Step Out, Step up for Diabetes Association
Six weeks ago when I wrote here announcing the 2014 Edition of Team TKO’s American Diabetes Association, Step Out Walk Team, several dozen of you readers sent generous donations to sponsor grandson Tyler Kane Ochs (TKO) and me in the walk that takes place, rain or shine, in the mud or not, at Keeneland on the morning of May 31.
Another several dozen of you either called, emailed or dropped a card in regular mail and asked that I remind you again “after the holidays” (Easter and Mother’s Day).
Hitting the campaign trail
The most watched race in the country ? the battle for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Republican Mitch McConnell ? has so far produced a bevy of charges and not much substance.
We haven’t seen that much of McConnell or his likely Democratic opponent Alison Lundergan Grimes out on the campaign trail.
McConnell’s primary opponent Matt Bevin has been much more active and visible, but his performance hasn’t enhanced his chances.
The case of the scary black cat
If Margie didn’t believe that black cats were the harbinger of bad luck, she certainly believed it when a black cat brushed against her leg while she was leaning over a large trash can burning garbage one late afternoon.
Startled by the sudden appearance of the feline, Margie opened her mouth wide and let out a blood-curdling scream that could have awakened Count Dracula himself.
Basking in the spring sunshine
If you had asked me, as recently as two weeks ago, to make a list of things I expected to see on the first Monday in May of 2014, two of the things that I actually did see would not have been on the list, even if you’d required that it contain at least 500 items.
I’d have been a bit skeptical about Ralph’s purple asparagus and his gorgeous snowball bush, both of which came through most admirably. And I would have had my doubts about the poppies that have been in our back yard for several generations and the bearded German Iris that Jeanette Todd gave us more than two decades ago. It faithfully stuns us there at the corner of the front porch every spring, but there they were, basking in absolute glory as the sun set Monday afternoon.
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