walter russell mead peter berger lilia shevtsova adam garfinkle andrew a. michta
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The Libyan Afterparty Continues As Timbuktu Dies

In the ongoing struggle between northern Mali’s secessionist Taureg fighters and a local Islamic jihadist group, Ansar Dine, the Islamists claim to have driven all remaining rebels from a third and final large town in the region. If the reports are accurate it would complete their control over a lawless area that may serve as a stronghold for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the Maghreb.

Strengthened by the return of experienced and well-armed Tuareg soldiers hired by Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi, the secessionists worked with Asnar Dine in January to beat back the feeble Malian national forces. Their alliance, however, was superficial – divided by fundamental tribal and religious differences, it took only a few weeks before the two groups violently turned on each other.

The defeated national forces, for their part, were unsatisfied with the democratically elected president’s efforts to combat the rebel attacks and overthrew him to establish a junta that refuses to hold elections while the north remains occupied.

In the background of this depressing landscape are the civilians who, backing neither rebel force, face increasingly alarming resource shortages and are resorting to extreme measures to secure food and water.

As we warned early on in NATO’s fudged Wilsonian effort in Libya, it was not in American or European interests to jump on a moralistic bandwagon that would end in a mere shifting of violence to the outer edges of the humanitarian disaster. Mali now stands to lose two decades of steady progress towards a more prosperous life for its citizens.

The Islamists, meanwhile, are celebrating their win by taking a leaf out of the Taliban’s Afghan playbook. Just as the Taliban destroyed ancient Buddhist sculptures in Afghanistan, the Ansar is going after the memorials and tombs of Sufi saints and other world heritage buildings in Timbuktu.

Humanitarianism that isn’t strategic isn’t just weak; it is actively evil. It wreaks havoc on the lives of poor and powerless people so that the powerful and well connected can feel good about themselves.

The impulse to help those in distress is a noble one; but acting on this impulse without thinking it through is often more destructive in its consequences than doing nothing at all.

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  • Anthony

    WRM,outside of Via Meadia there has been very little professional dialog on unintended consequences of Libyan intervention – no good effort goes unpunished. The impulse creating silence on Timbuktu is equally destructive…

  • http://DianaMuir.com Diana

    Part of the problem may be that we have persuaded ourselves that people everywhere share the same basic values, when, in fact, what we should be ding is persuading them to share our values. http://www.dianamuirappelbaum.com/?p=726

  • http://Inthisdimension.com Alex Scipio

    Cool. Another Islamist stronghold in Africa. I’d say it’s an opportunity for a twofer. The civilized world knows Islamism must be destroyed… And Obama wants us to reduce the number of nuclear warheads in our arsenal. Location meets opportunity.

  • Fred

    I’m shocked that this shocks anyone.

  • fred

    That new diplomacy of Obama is reaping dividends- a new Islamic stronghold in Timbuktu and Egypt becomes a Muslim Brotherhood malignancy!

  • http://www.russiaotherpointsofview.com/ Patrick Armstrong

    Don’t we all wish now that those nasty Russians had vetoed the UN resolution? Aren’t we thankful that they are standing in front of another “fudged Wilsonian effort” in Syria?
    Or is that all too difficult to understand?

  • Diggs

    It is fairly easy to see how Leftists can ignore the lack of human rights built into Islam…they simply have no grasp of reality. Obama has a lousy grip on reality, but he grew up around Islam and islamists, so he has no excuse when he directs the State Department to support ANY islamists.

  • teapartydoc

    Hey Diggs: The left has a real talent for overlooking human rights abuses with their own programs and agendas, so why should it be any surprise when they exhibit the same moral lacunae when seeing and at the same time not seeing abuses by themselves and their pets and affiliated cohorts. Ever heard of Walter Duranty? The thing to remember is that leftists and progressives, and even paleoconservatives, for that matter, do not recognise natural rights. Rights are confered by government, or in the case of paleos, by historical circumstances that allow rights to be asserted.

  • Rich K

    Maybe so Mr Mead but “HE WON” and she is beyond reproach because she allowed him to gain the nomination with no arguement. Smart,Real Smart.

  • gringojay

    World Heritage sites of the UN another casualty
    of political correctness – this time of the Islamists.
    How encouraging that Bethlehem recently declared a UN World Heritage of the Falestines (there being no “P” sound in Arabic my political correct spelling uses the “F”).

  • joe mack

    Thanks Obama, for leading from behind, living in the land of no unintended consequences.
    Must be nice.
    Mali, sorry about the mess, we meant well and that is all that really matters.

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