11 January 2013

Where are the surrender monkeys of yore?

France is bombing the African nation of Mali today, and that's okay with Mali's government. In fact, the socialist government of the Fifth Republic claims both UN sanction and African Union endorsement for its intervention on behalf of the government, a military junta less than one year old, against Islamist rebels on the march in the northern part of the country. Because the French are supporting the actual rulers of the country, we needn't expect Russia or China to complain about this foreign intervention in a sovereign state's affairs. But imagine if Bashar al-Assad asked for military aid from his foreign friends the way the Mali government reportedly has, and imagine if any country agreed to help him by bombing Syrian rebel positions. The difference in Mali, from what I can tell, is either that the rebels there lack the public-relations skills of their Syrian counterparts, or else since the current Mali government isn't hostile to a superpower or a superpower's client state, no one (apart from the rebels) has any special desire to see it fall. Instead, reverting to reason number one, the rebels can be portrayed just about universally as fanatic monsters. There probably are fanatic monsters among the rebels. But take a second to ask whether anyone would wage an armed rebellion just so they can chop the hands off thieves, or force modest dress upon women, or otherwise adopt the shari'a as interpreted by the local imams? Here's a readily-available source on the subject; read and figure it out for yourselves. In all likelihood a lot of otherwise inoffensive people are going to get stomped along with the Islamists while the world cheers. And because the U.S. isn't involved (as far as we know) fewer people will hesitate to make this a simple matter of good guys vs. bad guys, when civil wars are rarely that simple. If a case can be made against international intervention on behalf of rebels, the reason isn't that the government in power is always right. Even if you don't grant yourself a right to intervene, you might concede that rebels are in the right sometimes, and if it's OK to intervene on behalf of government and not on behalf of rebels that's hardly different from the "Holy Alliance" days of post-Napoleonic Europe -- not a heyday for democracy anywhere. None of this should be taken as a defense of the Mali rebels, but we can't let appearances stop us from thinking about the implications of France's actions and the world's apparent acquiescence in them.

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