The question you aren’t asking is how 1000 or 1500 Tuaregs (that’s a figure I read- no one seems to know) from Libya could take half of a country. Yes, they got there as a result of the fall of the Libyan regime, but why were they able to take so much territory from Mali?
Malian weakness is the real story. How did a country that’s been able to police itself in the past fall so easily to so few men?
That’s also what’s happening elsewhere. There aren’t new revolutionary forces, there’s the inability of regimes to put a stop to rebellions. Syria used to be able to put down revolts (Hama) but now they can’t. What changed? How was it possible for the Gaddaffi regime to fall so easily? Sure, there were airstrikes, but we are deluding ourselves if we think that so few bombs can overturn a government unaided. The rebels were stunningly incompetent, and the regime had to hire mercenaries when its army failed.
People trot out many explanations, but it seems to me that the decay of existing power structures throughout the middle east is the real reason.
Note that the Gulf monarchies are still able to crush dissent, and that Jordan and Morocco are still able to reform from a position of relative strength. Iraq, once the B’aath regime was overthrown, was only patched up with the expenditure of American blood and treasure and its ultimate fate remains to be seen.
The collapse of the post-colonial regimes in North Africa and the Middle East is the real story. There’s a real question of these countries being able to govern themselves at all. If small numbers of armed men can create empires in the ruins, the outlook is not good.
Compare to the fall of Rome!