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You are here:Home>>Strategic Research & Analysis>>Of Bread and Games, the War and Mali
Tuesday, 19 March 2013 14:52

Of Bread and Games, the War and Mali

Written by Bernard-Henri Lévy
French intervention force in Mali French intervention force in Mali Photo: cbn

Of Bread and Games, the War and Mali


In Mali, the French army is winning an exemplary war. It is saving a friendly country that was about to fall under the law of those who are expert in stoning and the amputation of hands. In so doing, it is smashing the connection they had begun to establish with their brothers-in-assassination in Nigeria and the rest of the region. It is successfully carrying out this exploit not with drones, but with men.

 

It has sought contact, if not hand to hand combat, in the caves of the north of the country, involving its soldiers in difficult, high-risk operations which have already cost the lives of five of them. It is fighting far from its own bases, in unknown territory, in extreme climatic conditions, against an enemy trained to be tough, determined, fanatical, that moves elusively through the desert sand like a fish in water.

 

This operation, efficiently carried out, one confronting a multitude of dangers, is all the war in Iraq was not. This lightning war, conducted and won with the support of Malian troops, without one sensing even the possibility of the threat of a quagmire, is the opposite of the war in Afghanistan.

 

Better still, it is, come to think of it, the first defeat of military Islamism -- it had already been politically defeated in Libya, for the French intervention that revealed a fraternal face of the West had the effect of pulverizing the core of Al Qaeda's argument, the result of which, a year later, was the very natural defeat of the forces that called for Jihad at the ballot box. Well, here is a military defeat, one that demonstrates for the first time that Jihadism is no more capable of carrying out a war than it is of governing a state. This too is essential, and once again, this is a key date.

 

Yet the extraordinary thing is that public opinion doesn't give a damn. The French are more passionately interested in the election of Miss France than they are in the heroic deeds of this new army of Africa. A nice Eurovision contest, if not just a Star Academy (a TV reality show), is more interesting than the destruction of, to use François Hollande's term, a potential Sahelistan.

 

Worse still, the transfer of a British football player or a French World Cup victory elicits more fervor, more enthusiasm, more patriotic and national pride, than the soldiers of the Republic rendering the gangster bands of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid and Abdelkader Mokhtar Belmokhtar powerless to do any further harm. Or rather, yes, there were in fact signs of interest here and there, some stirrings of curiosity or emotion, a few brief, feverish reactions. But these were the echo of ridiculous objections --what's this war without any images? Why haven't more journalists been brought in to cover the operation, embedded, the way they do in America? Why doesn't your army have anything to say? Why are they hiding it all from us, and haven't we the right to the spectacle, in the age of the all-powerful visible, isn't that taken for granted, a right of man? Or else, in counterpoint, pathetic suspicions--is it really fitting for an ex-colonial power to come to the aid of a formerly colonized nation?

 

What, about this story, is hidden in the shadows, what occult interests are they serving under the cover of great selflessness? Niger's uranium... oil, who knows where... control of subterranean sources of water... interests in Africa... money.... It was disgusting.

 

And as for Europe, it was, if possible, even more appalling, because it experienced this war from the balcony, sullen, smugly sermonizing, using its support as a bargaining chip or flat-out refusing it, a vague training mission here, two transport planes there, lent to the Ecowas. You shouldn'ta done it without us, it's too easy to ask for help afterwards, when one never asked for permission in the first place. You were showing off? Going it alone? Singing and dancing, your war brand new and joyous? Well, time to pay up now! What a shame, what a disaster.

 

And, for the true Europeans, those who, since Bosnia, are furious to see Europe without strategy nor courage, what a vow of impotence, what proof of non-existence. One perceives, in this situation, the sign of a persistent ignorance, extending to even the most enlightened, of the serious geopolitical stakes that decide our future and that, even when we forget them, never, unfortunately, forget us.

 

(Geopolitics, said Clausewitz, is destiny, and our destiny today is playing out against a backdrop of Islamism, which is progressing, terrorism, which is coming closer, and the fight to the death, everywhere, between enlightened Islam and its obscure side.)

 

Either that or the rapidly shrinking reduction of politics to roleplaying, no longer bothering with any precautions, completely lacking in grandeur; of History to a show deemed boring without injecting a few conspiracy theories here and there; and of the tragedy of our condition to this futile dramatization of which Kojève remarked that it is the pathetic caricature (and the subsequent advent, as in all post-historic eras, of a human animal devoted to bread and games, and to slavery).

In both cases, it is disturbing -- and very sad.

 

Bernard-Henri LévyBernard-Henri Lévy, French philosopher and writer.

 

 

 

 

 

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