Paul Rogers (at Open Democracy) makes a compelling argument that the African forces being readied to move against the Islamist militias that now control north Mali will not be up to the task, even with the help of 400 or so Special Forces advisors from various European countries.
The logical consequence will be the deployment of an expanded force with a substantial foreign input, whose responsibilities include a direct combat role, no doubt supported by both armed and reconnaissance drones . . . .
A bit reminiscent of the Vietnam War, no? First, Green Berets, followed by regular army and marines when that proved insufficient? Rogers continues:
It is possible that in the coming weeks there will be serious attempts to negotiate with at least some of the paramilitary Islamist groups operating in northern Mali. If they are successful, a conflict might still be avoided. It is clear, though, that intensive planning for military involvement is now underway, principally in Europe. If that military option does ensue, the result will be another international conflict with western participation - albeit likely to be on a smaller scale than Libya, and much smaller than Iraq or Afghanistan.
Its significance, though, may be less its size and intensity and more its status as a further example of western intervention against an Islamic region. In itself that may have little traction even with the great majority of the world's Muslim community, but for a core minority it will have a sharp impact. The most immediate effects may be felt in west Africa, where radical Islamist movements are influential, but also in east Africa, where similar currents are evolving. The experience of such wars also shows that once started they can take alarming directions, have very destructive results, and often enhance the very movements they are designed to counter. Whether such forewarnings make any difference remains to be seen.
With all of America's attention now riveted on the Dos Amigos' (John McCain and Lindsey Graham) frantic but flimsily supported attack on Susan Rice and the Benghazi "debacle" - and on the media carnival surrounding Petraeus/Broadwell/Allen/Kelley, Mali is getting nary a look-see in the US media. But if it comes to what Rogers has outlined (and his track record in such predictions is quite good; he was spot-on about how Iraq would turn out), Mr. Obama may find himself signing off on drone strikes (and more) in yet another Muslim country.