Behind Mali’s conflict: myths, realities & unknowns

Since the French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval, began last week, the internet has been buzzing with talk about its motives. Is France really only trying to contain a terrorist threat, as it claims? Or do major world powers have other, more sinister interests at stake? At its root, what is the conflict in Mali about?

This discourse, generated largely by journalists, analysts and activists unfamiliar with Mali, has been far too speculative for my tastes. Let’s consider what we do and don’t know about the causes and effects of international interest in Mali.

1. Mineral rights

Many sources say that the main reason France, and Western countries more broadly, are getting involved in Mali is that these major world powers covet the country’s mineral resources. The website globalresearch.ca expresses this view bluntly: “the goal of this new war is no other than stripping yet another country of its natural resources by securing the access of international corporations to do it.” Mali’s subsoil has been reported to contain abundant precious metals, oil and gas. But the truth of Mali’s “mineral riches” is rather murky.

Where oil and gas are concerned, talk of Mali’s “oil wealth” is premature: while Mali has potential reserves, it has zero proven reserves, and despite its government allocating 700,000 square kilometers for drilling since 2005, no wells have been drilled yet (see Jeune Afrique). No major multinational energy companies have even bought drilling rights in Mali: the only companies who have are Italy’s ENI, Algeria’s SONATRACH, Canada’s Selier Energy, and a few other minor players with high risk tolerance. Even before the present conflict began a year ago, the Malian Sahara’s remoteness and chronic insecurity made it a no-go zone for most investors. Military intervention will not change that for the better.

As for uranium in Mali, the only current mining operation of which I’m aware is in Falea, close to the country’s southwestern border with Guinea, carried out by the Canadian company Rockland. This operation has had its own social and environmental problems, but it’s nowhere near the conflict zone. Despite rumors of uranium in northern Mali, no evidence has been made public, so we cannot take it as a given that the area is “uranium rich.”

Aerial view of the Syama gold mine in southern Mali

Mali is among Africa’s top gold producers, exporting between 36 and 60 metric tons annually over the last decade; gold is a key source of revenue for the Malian government. Mining operations are carried out in southern and western Mali by a handful of multinational companies (Randgold, AngloGold Ashanti, and Iamgold among others).

Given what we don’t know about what lies beneath Malian soil, we can’t rule out the possibility that natural resources are a factor behind foreign intervention. But starting a war is hardly necessary to get cheap access to Mali’s gold or other minerals. Successive Malian governments, aware that they lack the capital and human resources to develop these deposits themselves, have cut very generous deals with mining companies and imposed minimal regulations on their activities. What’s the point of carrying out a risky jewelry store heist when the owners are practically giving away their merchandise?

2. Blowback from US military training

A primary reason for the defeat of Malian government forces at the hands of northern rebels last year, writes Barry Lando in the Huffington Post, was “the defection to the rebels of several key Malian officers, who had been trained by the Americans.” This unintended consequence of the US military’s ill-advised training program in the Sahel region helped turn the tide in the rebels’ favor, this argument goes.

This would make sense if most of the US-trained officers in Mali’s armed forces had defected to the rebels. But that’s not the case: Pentagon-sponsored training was provided to a broad cross-section of officers and NCOs in the Malian military, of which the defectors (most of them Tuareg) made up a minority. US-trained personnel fought on both sides of the conflict: at best the effects of their training were canceled out, at worst they were negligible. The problem with the US military’s training program wasn’t that it benefited the wrong people, it’s that it didn’t work. Following exercises in 2009, detailed in Wikileaks, even one of the Malian army’s most elite units got poor evaluations despite lengthy collaboration with US trainers. Whatever “advantage” such collaboration may have provided, it was the last thing the Tuareg — experienced desert fighters — needed to defeat Malian government forces.

(The “Democracy Now” television news program yesterday managed to combine the  blowback and uranium fallacies in a single headline: “Admin Aids French Bombing of Mali After U.S.-Trained Forces Join Rebels in Uranium-Rich Region.“)

3. Neocolonialism

By sending troops and jets to Mali, is France merely reasserting its bygone role as the country’s colonial master? Yes, says the World Federation of Trade Unions, which claims that “France continues to use the military bases it maintains in Africa in order to strengthen its role in the inter-imperialist competition and to serve the interests of its monopoly groups who are plundering the wealth-producing resources (gold, uranium etc.).” One Russian analyst argues that Operation Serval represents an attempt to “recolonize Africa.” Despite Malians’ warm reception for the French, similar interpretations continue to appear in the Malian press.

It would be difficult to prove or disprove allegations of neocolonial or imperialist motivations in French foreign policy. Surely a great many French citizens and leaders harbor paternalistic sentiments toward their former African colonies, and surely there are economic interests at stake. But we do know that for over a year, the French government (under Presidents Sarkozy and Hollande) was extremely reluctant to intervene in Mali’s conflict, preferring instead to lend logistic and financial support to a West African regional operation. The imminent collapse of the Malian military last week at the hands of Islamist forces in the Mopti region rendered that option moot. “La Françafrique” isn’t dead, but times have changed: by all indications, Operation Serval was a last resort, whereas a few years ago it would have been the default option.

4. Mali’s “strategic importance”

All of a sudden the word “strategic” keeps cropping up with reference to Mali. When you see the word associated with dusty hamlets like Konna or Diabaly, you know something’s amiss.

How about this claim by a U.S.-based activist group: “Mali is strategically located between the Arab African north and the Black African south. This largely Muslim country borders seven other countries…. This makes Mali of interest to the U.S., which seeks to counter the growing Chinese economic presence in Africa.”

A process of reverse reasoning appears to be at work here: If a conflict involving Western military forces is occurring somewhere, that somewhere must, by definition, be “strategic.” But let’s be honest: in and of itself, Mali has no strategic value. Discussing the fallout of intervention in Libya, Ross Douthat got it right last July when he wrote, “Mali is neither oil-rich nor strategically important. It is the kind of place whose politics is covered briefly in the back pages of foreign policy magazines, in between capsule book reviews and want ads for Kissinger Associates.” It is the recent successes of armed Islamist groups on its soil that have made Mali matter to the rest of the world.

5. Islam and Mali

Protestors in London, 12 Jan. (AFP)

Protestors in London, 12 Jan. (AFP)

Proponents of the “clash of civilizations” thesis (a group that includes both neo-conservatives and radical jihadists, believe it or not) see Mali as the new front line in the war between Islam and the West. But at least 9 out of 10 Malians are Muslim, they are grateful for the French intervention, and they want no part of the intolerant, totalitarian project reserved for them by the coalition of Islamist groups now controlling Mali’s north. At its core, the conflict in Mali is not between Muslims and non-Muslims; it’s between Muslims with different visions of Islam, and religion is by no means the most important issue at stake. One of the reasons the French government was so hesitant to get involved, and now insists that it’s fighting “terrorists, not Islamists” (sparking accusations in the French media of  “political correctness”), is that it doesn’t want to play into the hands of those who portray what’s happening in Mali as “Islam vs. the West.”

Moreover, I’m not sure how accurate it is to call the forces fighting against the French “Malian rebels” or to describe the conflict as a “civil war“–the command structures of AQIM and MOJWA in particular are dominated by Algerians and Mauritanians. Malians widely perceive these groups as foreign invaders, motivated by racism and greed as well as a perverted, even ignorant view of their faith.

We cannot say that the war in Mali is primarily about natural resources, Western meddling, or religion. We can say, however, that it is a direct consequence of state failure, which as I have argued elsewhere came about largely due to factors internal to Mali. My experience as an anthropologist has made me suspicious of reductionist theories and grand narratives of history, from Marxism to dependency theory to modernization theory. The notion that what’s today playing out in Mali is the product of a “great game” between major powers ignores the realities on the ground there. Those are precisely the realities that anthropology has trained me to appreciate.

*********************************

FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES:

For years I’ve been trying to persuade the Times to adopt an “all Mali, all the time” format. They’re finally listening.

And one from Peter Tinti:France gets deeper in Mali war: Are they ready?Christian Science Monitor, Jan. 16

Postscript (Jan. 23): The training blowback fallacy is still getting traction in the Huffington Post, while minerals feature in speculation about Western interests in Mali by Seumas Milne in The Guardian.

Postscript (Feb. 25): An activist with EarthFirst! claims that what’s really behind Operation Serval is Mali’s abundant irrigated rice fields, which the French want to control to maintain food security for Libya (?).

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87 Responses to Behind Mali’s conflict: myths, realities & unknowns

  1. Amasagou Dolo says:

    Very well stated and on point. Thank you Bruce.

  2. jeanerz says:

    Well done, Bruce. Thanks!

  3. Martha says:

    That is to say, do you believe that an ungoverned terrorist stronghold is not strategically important? Mali may not have been “strategically important” last year, but much has changed since then. Looking forward to your thoughts. Thank you for your concise, knowledgeable post and for addressing the flurry of speculative ideas surrounding the conflict in Mali (particularly the mineral piece)!

  4. Jonah says:

    Hi Bruce,
    Miss you guys. Curious: do we really know that most Malians are grateful for the French intervention (even if we were to assume, fairly, that no one wants any part of the intolerant, totalitarian project reserved for them by the coalition of Islamist groups now controlling Mali’s north)? I wonder if there may be a sliding scale, based on proximity to the front lines.

    Your friend,
    Jonah

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      Hey Jonah – My info comes from Bamako and the Segou region, where support for the intervention runs strong. I suspect (but can’t say for certain) that it’s even stronger in the Mopti region, and perhaps further north as well.

      • Jonah says:

        Thanks, Bruce!

      • herman55 says:

        In the south, in Bamako, people are safe and happy with the French. But I understand from a friend who runs a development project near Mopti (but has fled to Bamako for now) that a main concern for the people near the front line now is the Malinese army. Because of the tactics used by the jihadists, dressing up like local Bella and Touareg and mingling with the population, the army goes around indiscriminately picking up people from these groups without ID and killing them.

      • brucewhitehouse says:

        I’ve read similar reports and will be writing about them soon.

      • herman55 says:

        Sorry, I wrote Bella, but meant Fula.

    • Devon says:

      Hi Jonah, I live in Bamako and everyone I know has an extremely positive reaction to the French intervention (including people who, in the past, never hesitated to open up debate when their opinions differed from mine). A number of people have thanked me for the “toubab” soldiers saving Mali (not to mention the French flags mentioned in a lot of news stories, and which really are flying all around town). In my corner of Bamako, the response (for now) is very enthusiastic.
      Devon

  5. PeterJ says:

    Dear Bruce

    I lived in Mali for 16 years, up until April of last year. I too have been very disappointed by some of the uninformed opinions on this conflict that I have read recently. Thank you so much for setting the record straight. Keep up the good work.

    And I can also confirm that my Malian friends and co-workers (mostly in Bamako and Kayes) are very pleased with the French intervention. This includes both Muslims and Christians.

  6. Allan MacLeod says:

    Bruce, Yours is an excellent balanced review of the situation in Mali. Thanks! Re Gold in Mali, there are several old gold mines we came to know about when we were in Mali, one just outside Bougouni, and another on the road we used to take branching off the road to Guinea, and going north-west to Sirakoro, south of Kita. The track went right through an old gold field, with its holes like wells dug down, and communicating with one another. We could stop our Land Rover and look down holes on each side of the vehicle. I don’t know if there has been any mining research in that area… Allan

    • Esther says:

      Alan, There’s been a lot of mining research in that area but no industrial mines have been set up, these are in the areas around Kayes and Sikasso, indeed far from the troubled north. Also, French involvement in Malian gold mining is very limited. Had this conflict been about gold, you would not have seen French soldiers but Canadian and South-African ones. Stephen Harper has finally been convinved to send one plane I think and South Africa is staying out.

  7. Frank says:

    Interested in your thoughts about the reasoning involving the French marching in to protect the supply of uranium from next door in Niger? As the trope goes, (this from a New York Times comment: “The world’s 3rd largest Uranium mines in Niger are controlled by the French Arreva company. The mining city Arlit/ Niger is in a distance of appr. 250 miles from Rebel held Kidal/ Mali. The French electric power supply including heating facilitities is mainly (70%) based on nuclear power plants.”

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      I think questions of security overlap with the issue of access to resources: Remember that AQIM currently has 4 French hostages, all of them Areva employees or contractors, captured in Arlit in September 2010.

      • Frank says:

        So then are you pushing this line of force as potentially valid? If so, could you expand on this a little bit? Many thanks.

      • brucewhitehouse says:

        Not quite sure what is the “line of force” to which you refer. Clearly the French want to keep Areva’s operation at Arlit secure. Is that a motivation for sending troops to Mali? Possibly, but only one out of many.

  8. Ben says:

    Thanks for those extremely sensible thoughts. But ‘state failure’ as the reason why Mali collapsed only pushes the requirement for explanation one stage back. One reason (not the only, but important) why the state failed is that the sucessive privatisation programs left the govt with no means of exerting patronage, and nothing even to pretend to be doing anymore. When ATT blinked at CMDT privatisation the World Bank threatened to cut its funding (as a World bank staffer told me in 2006, albeit in not so many words). Donors helped to hollow out the state that then collapsed.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      True, but I think Malian govts. have also been pretty adept at foot-dragging & stonewalling donors even in the face of considerable pressure. They know that the donors’ job is to move money, and that requires a worthy-looking recipient to take it. As long as things are OK on the surface the money keeps flowing in. Now we’re 6 years on and the CMDT still hasn’t been privatized, if I’m not mistaken….

  9. thanks for this nice article. I was in Mali last winter juste before the coup and its still hard for me to read about it. Malien are such nice people.

  10. Samuel says:

    The “great game” argument usually comes from people who “ignores the realities on the ground there”.

  11. Adama Traore says:

    Dear Bruce
    Thank you so much, you are a true expert of Mali, I am a Malian living in UK and was dismay to hear some wrong information about my countries on “Aljazeera, ‘Open Democracy’ and some Tweeter comments. There is no mining production in North of Mali yet and Mali democracy was a fake one, Toure was brought to power by Konare and under Toure’s government corruption was widespread. I was critical and opponent of this government always when most people in the West call him a “Soldier of Peace”.

  12. kitaden says:

    I’ve never been really into islam or any religion for that matter, but after this war I will definitely change my name to cut all sorts of tie. The only thing that I could see or read from this entry, with my heart racing to the death, is the picture of these women holding these flyers.

    From a Malian who is just ashamed of himself!

  13. dianabuja says:

    Excellent analysis – you may enjoy my reposted blog (from last year) which has an historical bend vis-a-vis the Sahil: http://dianabuja.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/city-states-in-the-sahel-pre-european-kingdoms-of-west-africa-pt-1/

  14. Absolutely spot on. Couldn’t agree more. Mali on its own terms please.

  15. salteriffic says:

    Thanks again Bruce for such a clear headed take on what is happening in Mali. We are really hoping for a quick end to all of this, hopefully avoiding long drawn out chaos. Cheers, Ethan

  16. Phil Vernon says:

    You make some good points, but surely if western powers intervene, then it probably is of “strategic importance” to them as they see it; so not really reverse reasoning at all. Surely better to argue with their logic than pretend they have none? My understanding is that the strategic nature of this situation for the west is based on the fact that northern Mali (and the area around it) is a “space” which has become strategic for the west because of its relaive emptiness, the nature of its governance, and its occupation by those with connections to Islamist movements in conflict with “the West”. Secondary points which also bear on this are its relative proximity to Europe, and the drug trade; tertiary (minor) factors inlcude mining and the loss, to the Western development community, of one of their “success stories”. An important trigger was the collapse of Gaddhaffi.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      Perhaps my point didn’t get across, or perhaps we don’t have the same idea about what “strategic” means: what I’m pushing back against is the notion that outside powers have long coveted Mali’s geographic & geological assets, and that the Islamist threat was merely a pretext for Western intervention. There’s a difference in my mind between arguing that Mali “is strategic” and arguing that, in the present context, “Mali matters.” I support the latter, not the former.

      • Phil Vernon says:

        Fair enough. Of course for Malians, bieng seen as strategic by or simply mattering to others comes to much the same thing. The West and their allies will continue to instrumentalise their engagement in the Sahel for Home Security purposes, and this will make some Western actors blind to or uninterested in the impacts of their policy and actions on Malians and others in the region. Not an appealing prospect.

        I am tempted to suggest that for Mali to work as a modern nation, those in the north and south – and those of us describing the situation there – all need to move away from using north-south as a lens, and think instead of ideas about citizenship, nation, social capital, etc. Whether I am a northerner or a southerner, it matters that I consider the link between my situation and “le Mali”, rather than my situation and “northerners” or “southerners” (whichever).

  17. Martin says:

    Nicely put, and sourced.

    Some groups have a habit of assigning intervention motivation as economic because, I think, they find it hard to understand that politicians motivations may be similar to their own when their methods (military) are so different. Similarly other groups assign insurgency/terrorism motivation to religion (particularly islam just now) because they find it hard to understand that the Bad Guys might just be Ordinary Bad Guys.

  18. Lise Blom says:

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge! This is my first reply, but I have read your blog for a long time!
    Just to add – in the dogon area the people is very pleased with the french intervention. I was called early in the morning by a friend in a northern dogon village. He had heard the bombing of Konna. It’s the market ,the village usually visit to buy fish. A man from the village lives in Konna and had fled to Bamako. Now he was back and celebrated the bombing as well. I also talked a man in Bandiagara. When Konna was captured, he and his friends were so afraid, that they packed their bags to be ready to flee and leave all belongings behind. Both are muslims. They have called for help for a very long time. When Bamako and people in the south have been patient, they have been desperate – knowing that they are in the first row.

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  20. Klaas Tjoelker says:

    Bruce, thank you for summing up a lot of information, analysis and argument in this interesting and thoughtstimulating text.

    I think it is essential to keep nuances in mind. This military intervention cannot be reduced to 1. a war for mineral ressources, 2. a proof of a failed US war on terror, 3. a manifestation of French neocolonialism, 4. a quest for an intrinsicly strategic country or 5. a war of the west against the Islam. By the way, neither can it be reduced to 6. a direct result of the war in Libya (as many writers suggest in a type of shorthand that is typical for crisis situations).

    The French military intervention is none of these if taken in isolation and turned into a caricature, I agree with you on that. But at the same time, some of the themes you mention are certainly playing a role somewhere in this military buildup.

    For the moment, I am as glad as most Malians that the French intervention is protecting many people (including myself) from terrorism, even if it brings also terror and damage (including colateral damage) to others.

    As in a restaurant, the bill is presented after the meal. Let’s wait and see what is in it to draw a further conclusion.

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  23. vadimfv says:

    Hi Bruce – I’m very happy to have just discovered your blog after several years of following the situation in Mali. Much respect to Bamako and the South, but what about the Tuareg. They’re clearly the Kurds of Africa in the geographic sense of this map: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Tuareg_area.png
    They’ve been marginalized since Mali’s independence and have so far staged three rebellions. The most recent one last year was briefly successful in declaring the secularist state of Azawad (and yes I understand it was untenable in the sense that the population within it was not majority Tuareg) but that got very little attention in the international media. I’m not Amazigh, but I’ve been interested in Berber causes for a while, and I always thought that Kabylia would the first to gain “independence” but lo and behold, the Tuareg came out first. And yet nobody cared. South Sudan got major headlines but Azawad got nothing. The only thing that finally garnered attention was when Ansar Dine snatched the victory away from the MNLA and started imposing Sharia and committing atrocities. That’s because nobody knows about the stories of Berber suppression in North Africa but everyone shakes in their boots at the ululations of radical Islam (which, along with Arab nationalism, caused the suppression in the first place). So, sure, I support the French intervention as much as any Bamako citizen – if it’s possible to clean out AQIM and allies it should be done – but what, if anything, is that going to do for the Tuareg, who’ve been screwed by the Malian government whether it’s a “democracy” or not?

    • adrenalin says:

      I agree on this point. And I fear the outcome might be that the “South” once more will continue to dominate all Tuaregs in the North. The next government of Mali will again be dominated by ethnic groups of the South.

      For the rest I’d agree on what Bruce Whitehouse wrote. Thanks a lot.

      • brucewhitehouse says:

        For what it’s worth, Tuaregs in particular and northerners in general were very heavily represented in ATT’s successive cabinets. The combined population of Mali’s 3 northern-most regions (Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal) is just over 1 million (or was, before perhaps half of those residents fled south last year), and even in those 3 regions the Tuareg by no means constitute a majority. The total population of Mali is over 15 million. If peoples of the “South” continue to have more sway in the Malian government than the Tuareg, isn’t that just the way democracy is meant to work?

  24. Ikè Nwankpa says:

    Reblogged this on Ikè Nwankpa and commented:
    A Malian perspective on the current state of events. Read, especially, points 3 and 5:

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  28. Gene Reese says:

    Much appreciated! Like most such issues, they follow the opinions written by “experts” reporting from the nearest bar at a Western hotel. There are “strategic interests” beyond economics and politics, as even Clinton admitted about Rwanda (unfortunately after the fact). I carry no brief for the French, but here, it appears to have the right motivation.

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  33. mordy says:

    Bruce, can you recommend some further reading (specially political + cultural histories) to better understand the situation in Mali and Algeria?

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  37. Andrew says:

    Excellent blog. Thanks for your insights and observations, Bruce…

  38. Chidinma says:

    Give a clear cause of the war.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      There’s no single cause but the list would certainly include the decline of the Malian state, and the subsequent filling of the ungoverned spaces in northern Mali by violent Islamists and Tuareg separatists.

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  40. Owa says:

    Are you an “expert” on Mali? I sense a very smooth and pedestrian mis- information smell to this analysis of the Malian conflict. Native Africans are a big bother to the Western scheme of things. Millions of people are sitting on (read in the way) of a continent overflowing with resources of every kind. What we are told is going on is nothing like what is really going on. There is something suspicious about the lack of mention of the Dagon in this conversation; a people with a very curious relation to hte secret history of mankind.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      You know I couldn’t mention the Dogon because I’m part of the conspiracy to keep their immense secret knowledge from the world!!!

      • Amasagou Dolo says:

        Yes, we must do everything we can to preserve our immense secret, even to the extent of repelling armed invaders. Thanks to OWA, now the whole world knows the true reason for the French intervention.

  41. Marcus says:

    it’s good to look opun the world without reference to “reductionist theories”; but i’ve not quite understood what’s your explanation for the french/western intervention; wouldn’t it be also somehow “reductionary” (do you say so in english?) to only regard altruism as the main factor? it seems as if there were given weapons and money to islamist militant groups in the libyen civil war, from both, arabian and western countries. is all this maybe part of a tactic of “controlled destabalization”?

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      Let me say three things in reply. One, “reductionary” is not widely used in English. Two, nowhere in this post do I ascribe altruistic motives to the French intervention. Three, for years I’ve heard rumors of Mali’s “controlled destabilization” (the French created the MNLA, the French helped the Algerians create AQMI, NATO ousted Qaddafi in part to cause a pretext to take over Mali). While I believe that the diplomatic, intelligence and policy incompetence of the Great Powers has certainly contributed to Mali’s destabilization, I just don’t see evidence to support the “pyromane/pompier” theory. Perhaps you can explain what the purpose of the alleged controlled destabilization would be.

  42. Marcus says:

    well, in a destabilized (sorry for the bad spelling before, it’s a good practice commenting blogs in english) state, stronger powers would have the possibility to swift opportunistically (yes sorry i just presume that word exists) from one group to the other, always due to their contemporary interests/politics. i am far from beeing an expert and i respect the information given tu us by your blog which go much further and seem to be much more precise than those we get from the media in europe. it is just that looking upon the politics of the west towards afghanistan, irak, iran, syria, turkey or libya of the last 30 years, it seems to be the normality that western contries deal with all players involved, making sure that influence and profits will not be endangered, whatever side wins in which conflict whatever. this is just a feeling, i will not be so arrogant to doubt your considerations while i am sitting in front of the television; but still, something triggers in my head.

  43. Reblogged this on newspeak and commented:
    An interesting and programmatic takedown. I’m still not entirely persuaded, as the account of France’s interest in Niger’s uranium seems persuasive: Niger and Mali abut each other. But the point made in this article is a good one: failure of state as a casus belli.

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      Note that I do not exclude natural resources as a potential cause, my argument is simply that we lack the evidence to include it definitively as a motivating factor.

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  53. Vinolan says:

    Can anyone include any subjective chain of events of what had happend in Mali, Bamako, and can it include how topography, climate and vegetation influenced this strife?

    • brucewhitehouse says:

      Why limit ourselves to topography, climate and vegetation? Why not throw in plate tectonics, soil pH, and solar flares? ;)

      • Vinolan says:

        :-) I’m doing a research on an African region where there is a strife which should include these roles and I believe that Mali is one my interest and I do enjoyed your work. It would be great to include you in my research.

    • Amasagou Dolo says:

      Simple answer. Northern Mali. Topography-flat. Climate-hot and dry. Vegetation-non existent.

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