Studying War Some More
Last week I was sort of congratulating the president for calling an early halt to the Afghan war, but the thought nags that we could easily get into any of three others.
Events in Mali kicked off my fears. Islamist insurgents took over a part of the country and were on their way to more. Suddenly, in stepped the French, first with airpower then “boots on the ground.”
Turned out to be a tougher fight than expected. The insurgents are well armed and well led. Instead of abandoning the takeover of a new town, they simply blended in—removed people from their homes and moved in with armaments. Not to make light of this misery, but to state the problem facing both the French and Mali loyalists in retaking the town, how do you tell a good Mali from a bad Mali?
The U.S. swore not to get involved in the fighting, though it is providing intelligence and technical aid to the French and Mali governments.
Then another unforeseen development: Because Algeria permitted the French to utilize their airspace, Algerian Islamists once affiliated with Al Qaeda took over a remote Sahara gas facility, taking some 40 hostages from several countries including eight Americans.
Without a word to France or the U.S., Algeria sent in a heavily armed batch of soldiers on a rescue mission that resulted in multiple deaths on all sides, including 23 hostages. Some hostages escaped, others reportedly released. At least one American died—possibly more. If so, though the facts remain murky, you can bet there will be stateside calls for retaliation. American deaths can change the equation and bring us into this African war. Stay tuned.
Stay tuned also to two other, better-known situations.
We have been on the edge of entering the fighting in Syria for months now. The brutality of the Assad regime, which has remained in power despite the slaughter of thousands of its own innocent people—possibly with chemical weaponry—has generated many calls for our armed intervention, mostly from the usual militarists here such as John McCain.
The situation pulls hard at our humanitarian heartstrings, even those of antiwar liberals. Balancing that impulse is the increasing knowledge that we still do not know enough about who the anti-Assad insurgents are and what will occur if they actually win. Witness Egypt and Libya.
Charles Glass, the highly perceptive author and reporter who has been watching this area with clear, careful eyes, notes significant brutality by the insurgents and opines there is no point in urging or supporting more fighting. The negotiating table is long overdue. That must become our main involvement—though the case for military intervention continues to be pursued by many here at home.
Then, of course, the prospect of Israel drawing us into Iran hostilities remains a monkey on our backs. President Obama has actually drawn his own “red line,” which, if breached, could lead to the worst conflagration of all.
OK—we’re out of Iraq and soon out of Afghanistan, but we are not really out of the woods.
Don Rose is a regular columnist for the Chicago Daily Observer
image Nat King Cole sang a version of “Ain’t Gonna Study War No More”