Because I am not currently, and, if humanity is to survive, never will be, in a position of power and authority over others, perhaps I don’t understand the impulse for total domination and destruction which accompanies those lofty offices of state whose occupiers so frequently empower their enemies by attempting to thoroughly eliminate them. This is an even more inane tactic considering that most modern enemies tend not to be concentrated in one easily-located area and try to keep their structures of power fluid and opaque (unless they’re other nations, of course). One of the things which has made the War on Terror broadly unsuccessful is that it has taken as its object virtually every undefined, difficult-to-locate group on the planet. Even the Taliban, whose leader we are familiar with and whose spheres of influence we have routed for eleven years, remains stubbornly undefeated (and possibly undefeatable).
The subject of today’s object-lesson is Mali. Since my last missive, Captain Sanogo, leader of a singularly ill-judged coup, has stepped from interim in Mali and handed over to Dioncounda Traoré. An ECOWAS agreement a few days ago to keep Traoré in power for a year while new elections are organised has been somewhat thwarted by a group of protestors who stormed the presidential palace and beat up the interim president, who has apparently gone to France. Rumours of Sanogo’s supporters unilaterally reinstalling him to power against the wishes of ECOWAS, as yet unconfirmed by anyone, are only adding to the air of suspicion surrounding the whole mess. A frequent question, and justifiably so, is: “How did a group of unarmed protestors manage to penetrate the heavily-guarded grounds of the presidential palace if not with the army’s encouragement, implicitly or explicitly?” Things are set to get worse, and this is where I get perplexed.
The Malian authorities (whoever they end up being) don’t want AQIM operating in Azawad, no matter who’s theoretically in charge of it. The MNLA is only allied with Ansar Dine for convenience and seems to be yielding to them. Getting Islamists out of Azawad will require a great deal of time and effort, and trying to fight against the MNLA at the same time will only make things worse, to say nothing of the reaction of the Tuareg if the Malian authorities make war against them just as if they’re Islamists. This will only drive AQIM and the MNLA closer together.
Yet both the Malian authorities and the MNLA have an interest in AQIM not being in the IM (or rather, that the ‘M’ should not be avowedly ‘I’). Put simply, the most effective solution to the issues in Mali must surely be to engage in talks with the MNLA to establish Mali as a federal state, with Azawad as an autonomous region. This would probably be smaller than its current claimed territory, as many people in Timbuktu and nearby areas are not at all Tuareg, but it would encompass a sizable territory. With such an arrangement in place, both sets of leaders could focus on stabilising the region. Getting the two sides to agree on this system would require quite a bit of wrangling, but I think it would ultimately be feasible.
Of course, it’s impossible. Most sensible but feasible things are. AQIM and the MNLA are nearly too deeply involved to be torn asunder by now; there are suggestions that they might announce a coalition cabinet for Azawad in the next few days. Having gained this level of independence (even under a de facto power-sharing agreement) the MNLA would be reluctant to relinquish it unless they could be fully assured that the Malian authorities would fully cooperate with them on security matters. Mali, or what remains of it, would be loath to offer that assurance even without the constant pressure from other regional leaders mindful of what autonomy could mean for their own local independence movements.
I will be away in Lithuania and Belarus as of tomorrow, but hopefully I will blog a bit from there (unless WordPress is banned), so look out for that.