Thursday, January 31, 2013
Mali: Amid dancing and singing in the streets, French forces freed the storybook city of Timbuktu Monday, rescuing a cultural treasure box from a nihilistic siege by Islamofascist barbarians. If only it had a storybook ending!
There was ample reason for joy, knowing that this city, a metaphor in the Western imagination for places exotic and far away, had been rescued from the al-Qaida-affiliated terrorists who had laid waste to it in the past 10 months.
They desecrated Timbuktu's ancient tombs, burned ancient library texts, banned its famed music, exiled its musicians and unleashed Shariah law terror on its population, chopping hands and heads to show their force.
The French entry into the city ended the nightmare and they then forged north, taking the al-Qaida bastion of Kidal as terrorists skittered away to their caves and ammo dumps without a fight.
But it may all come to naught, given what's coming out from Paris. Before the dancing has even stopped, France's President Francois Hollande has begun talking of pulling out. "We are winning this battle," he declared. "Now the Africans can take over."
It may be good politics, and it may be budget-driven from the nation described by its labor minister as "a totally bankrupt state," but it doesn't bode well for the legitimate aim of keeping Mali out of terrorist hands.
After all, it's not as if the French entry to Timbuktu was a hard-fought military victory.
Fact is, there wasn't any fighting at all. Terrorists left town before the French could get them, retaining their lives and weapons to fight another day. Like the Viet Cong, their game is to thrive and count on a failure of political will from a superior military power.
What's more, they are nomads, coming from that 10% of the population that lives in the 60% of the country that's covered with Sahara sand — highly mobile, knowledgable about the moonscape terrain and hard to catch.
A swift French pullout is exactly what they want.
And that speaks of a disturbing lack of commitment by France.
A war on terrorism is one that takes tremendous commitment and resources. So far, as is known from the U.S. experience, a long involvement is unavoidable.
France should be thinking about forming a protectorate and perhaps securing its energy interests rather than turning tail.
If France doesn't mean to do that, its victory in Mali will be about as permanent as the Sahara's perpetually shifting sands.