Posted on | January 19, 2013 | 14 Comments
“The International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs had entrusted him with the making of a report, for its future guidance. And he had written it, too. I’ve seen it. I’ve read it. It was eloquent, vibrating with eloquence, but too high-strung, I think. Seventeen pages of close writing he had found time for! . . . But it was a beautiful piece of writing. . . . It was very simple, and at the end of that moving appeal to every altruistic sentiment it blazed at you, luminous and terrifying, like a flash of lightning in a serene sky: ‘Exterminate all the brutes!’”
— Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
If you have been troubled recently by the thought that Mr. Kurtz may have been onto something, certainly you aren’t alone. We haven’t been doing too well in the Suppression of Savage Customs lately:
In a bloody finale, Algerian special forces stormed a natural gas complex in the Sahara desert on Saturday to end a standoff with Islamist extremists that left at least 23 hostages dead and killed all 32 militants involved, the Algerian government said. . . .
The siege at Ain Amenas transfixed the world after radical Islamists linked to al-Qaida stormed the complex, which contained hundreds of plant workers from all over the world, then held them hostage surrounded by the Algerian military and its attack helicopters for four tense days that were punctuated with gun battles and dramatic tales of escape. . . .
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said much remains “sketchy” about what happened at the remote Ain Amenas gas field.
“We know that lives have been lost,” he said.
Asked how many Americans were in danger and what happened to them, Panetta said he knew Americans were still being held hostage earlier Saturday. On what happened to them, he said, “we need to get better information.”
Meanwhile, the New York Times reports on events in neighboring Mali:
With French officials saying confidently on Saturday that an advance by Islamist militants on Bamako, Mali’s capital, had been halted, France’s foreign minister told African leaders that “our African friends need to take the lead” in a multilateral military intervention in Mali. . . .
The French defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Saturday that France now had 2,000 troops in Mali, with more in the region, and that France was likely to add to its forces there. . . .
Residents have told local news agencies that the Islamists have left Diabaly, which they seized as an important way station on the road to the administrative capital, Ségou, north of Bamako.
French airstrikes have halted the Islamist advance toward Mopti and nearby Sévaré, French officials said, while they confirmed that the village of Konna, north of Mopti, was now back in the hands of Mali’s government. The French have also sent troops along with Malian forces to secure a bridge over the Niger River at Markala, north of Ségou.
Mitt Romney was mocked for mentioning Mali in his final debate with President Obama. Professor Stephen Clark observed this week that the connection between “the Islamist takeover of northern Mali with the NATO-led overthrow of the Gaddafi” in Libya was overlooked by the media:
Mali is a knock-on consequence of a failed north-African policy. Just such consequences were the fear expressed by some with US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those failed to materialize. Now that they have materialized as a consequence of Obama’s policies the grand-high poobahs and their courtiers are as silent as church mice.
The boomerang in this case came from our extremely ill-advised and reckless intervention in Libya, which turned that nation into a failed state and sent tentacles of radicalism throughout the Sahel. And what did we gain from the Libyan adventure and the revolution we blessed in Egypt by tossing a 30-year ally to the wolves? In the latter, we now have leadership that feels entirely comfortable using eliminationist rhetoric against Israel; in the former, we have a burned-out consulate, four dead Americans, and a central government whose writ won’t run in half the country. Our policies in the last two years in this region have emboldened our enemies and disillusioned our allies, and in this case we didn’t get anything at all in trade for the unintended consequences we have reaped.
Don’t worry, Ed: The President’s a Nobel Peace Prize winner! And I’m sure the International Society for the Suppression of Savage Customs is eagerly awaiting your final report.
- Jan. 17: Crisis in Algeria: More ‘Arab Spring’ Consequences; U.S. Hostages Seized
- Jan. 13: France Battles Islamists in Mali
- Dec. 28: AFRICA IN CRISIS: U.S. Abandons Embassy, France Won’t Intervene