Of Bread and Games, the War and Mali

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.
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In Mali, the French army is winning an exemplary war.

It is saving a friendly country that was about to fall underthe law of those who are expert in stoning andthe amputation of hands.

In so doing, it is smashing the connection they had begunto establish with their brothers-in-assassination in Nigeriaand 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 soldiersin difficult, high-risk operations which have already cost thelives of five of them.

It is fighting far from its own bases, in unknown territory, in extreme climatic conditions, against an enemy trained to betough, determined, fanatical, that moves elusively through thedesert sand like a fish in water.

This operation, efficiently carried out, one confrontinga 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 militaryIslamism -- it had already been politically defeated inLibya, for the French intervention that revealed a fraternalface of the West had the effect of pulverizing the coreof 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'tgive a damn. The French are more passionately interestedin the election of Miss France than they are in the heroicdeeds of this new army of Africa.

A nice Eurovision contest, if not just a Star Academy (a TV realityshow), 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 theRepublic rendering the gangster bands of Abdelhamid Abou Zeid and Abdelkader Mokhtar Belmokhtar powerless to do anyfurther 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 morejournalists been brought in to cover the operation, embedded, the waythey do in America? Why doesn't your army have anything to say? Why are they hiding it all from us, and haven't we theright 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-colonialpower to come to the aid of a formerly colonized nation?

What, about this story, is hidden in the shadows, what occultinterests are they serving under the cover of great selflessness?Niger's uranium... oil, who knows where... control of subterraneansources 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, smuglysermonizing, using its support as a bargaining chip or flat-outrefusing it, a vague training mission here, two transport planes there, lent to the Ecowas. You shouldn'ta done it withoutus, it's too easy to ask for help afterwards, when one neverasked 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 furiousto 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 persistentignorance, 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 destinytoday 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, completelylacking in grandeur; of History to a show deemed boring withoutinjecting a few conspiracy theories here and there; and of the tragedyof 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 devotedto bread and games, and to slavery).

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

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