What Are the French Really Up to in Mali?
When it comes to going to war, it’s not too often we get to see France beat the US to the punch. But in the case of Mali, the troubled north African country with a serious jihadi problem, the French are playing the usual American role of global terrorist-hunter, launching a string of airstrikes and deploying 2,500 troops to its former colony in what could end up being a long and dirty war, à la Afghanistan. Since its unwillingness to support the war in Iraq in 2003 (which launched a mindless jingoistic shit-storm in the States), the French track record of interventionism has actually been more belligerent than widely held American perceptions would have it.
Besides leading the NATO charge in Libya against Gaddafi in 2011, leading up to the Malian campaign, France actually sent troops to two different countries within a month. In December, soldiers were deployed to the Central African Republic and then, in early January, a helicopter commando mission in Somalia failed to free a French hostage. They also maintain the largest and readiest Western military presence on the continent, with permanently stationed troops in countries like Chad and Gabon. Not to mention the rich history of corrupt African dictators being propped up by French political leaders in exchange for syphoning natural resources.
When it comes to Africa, since the wave of independence movements directly following WWII, the French secretly considered the continent its colonial playground, even without the title of imperial overlord. In fact, there’s evidence of all sorts of sinister stuff, like alleged connections between Hutu militiamen in Rwanda and French military officials before the 1994 genocide.