The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Clinton: Mali Now a “Powder Keg”

Via Meadia readers have known about the unexpected and costly consequences of the war in Libya for months now. In particular, we’ve been writing about how the “humanitarian” intervention in Libya has dangerously destabilized the region and raised the risks of new conflicts that could be substantially worse than anything that NATO operations in Libya were aimed at preventing.

Apparently, the U.S. government has begun to tally up some of the costs of its Libya campaign:

The political, economic and humanitarian crisis in Mali—and much of the broader North African region known as the Sahel—has turned the country into a “powder keg” for terrorist activity by al Qaeda’s Saharan front, said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“Now, with a larger safe haven and increased freedom to maneuver, terrorists are seeking to extend their reach and their networks in multiple directions,” Mrs. Clinton said at a scheduled meeting between senior government officials and heads of international groups held on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly. “And they are working with other violent extremists to undermine the democratic transitions under way in North Africa, as we tragically saw in Benghazi.”

Reports of terrorists converging on Mali from as far afield as Pakistan and Afghanistan were circulating months ago. Did the Obama administration really think that such a toxic stew would stay contained within the porous borders of a failing state? What brilliant plans have the “humanitarian hawks” in the White House concocted to clean up the growing, dangerous chaos their Libya venture unleashed?

More important yet, Secretary Clinton’s point that instability in Mali creates a serious security problem in an important region underlines the extent to which the Obama administration’s terror problems didn’t die with bin Laden. The US is engaged in a global contest with a collection of ideological currents and organizations pursuing an agenda of destruction and terror in the interest of a radical version of Islam.

One lesson of the LIbya war: we have to make decisions about individual countries and campaigns in the light of the wider situation. Otherwise, well intentioned steps can create more problems than they solve. It’s a lesson the Bush administration very painfully learned after Iraq; it’s too bad that the current administration so quickly forgot a piece of wisdom so painfully acquired.

Published on September 27, 2012 9:21 am