A prize to anyone who can figure out what we should do about Mali.In the north, dangerous terrorists are forming a breakaway state that may become a source for jihadi terrorism, drug smuggling, and general disorder throughout the region. In the south, armed thugs are beating up journalists and wrecking what’s left of the country. Instead of combating the jihadists who have overtaken the north, the military in the south is mainly dedicating itself to mercilessly torturing real or imagined enemies in the territory it still controls. The government, so-called, appears to be completely incompetent.Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, doesn’t have many viable or attractive options in his policy toolbox. As he explains to The New York Times:
“Over time, it will be necessary to go in and root out the terrorist elements, but any operations in the north must be well planned, well organized, well resourced and well thought out … It must have a significant Malian military component in front.”
Carson enunciates a principle that perhaps should have been at the forefront of Washington’s thinking before the Libyan intervention: “It’s important that anything done be thought out and not precipitous.”So, what should we do? Do we:a) Overthrow the bad government, install a good one, help Mali build an actual working army that ultimately moves against the terrorists in the north? And where exactly do we find the members of the “good government” we plan to install? And just how many months or years are we talking? And how many billions?b) Do nothing while northern Mali turns into an al-Qaeda ammo warehouse and training ground?c) Try to find some member of the current government or military who is slightly more competent and less horrible than the others, help him become a strongman, and work with him to get rid of the northern terrorists, no matter how much of our aid money he steals and how many reporters and human rights activists he feeds to the crocodiles?d) Forget about the south and just send in the drones?e) Try to get the neighbors, or maybe the French, to clean up the mess?Please send your suggestions to Johnnie Carson, assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Department of State, Washington, DC.And hurry.