Here are a few reading links on the intervention in Mali and related matters.
Simplifications of the ethnic, religious, and political dynamics of this crisis will not help to resolve the complex issues that are at its root. Thanks to 20 years of (admittedly shaky) democracy, most Malians treasure political participation as a key component of citizenship. What they want now is not less democracy - precisely what, to their minds, the Islamists and separatists would bring - but broader participation and greater freedom. In an op-ed in The New York Times, Oumou Sall Seck, mayor of Goundam in northern Mali, shared a common view among Malians when she wrote that "Lawless and godless men - who hide behind Shariah and demands for Tuareg independence - are now beating and raping women and conscripting children to fight their 'holy' war." It is no surprise that a majority want to live in a secular Mali with its current borders intact and, preferably, a legitimately elected president.
Similarly, reports have erroneously implied that France's intervention is nothing more than neocolonial adventurism. May Ying Welsh, a correspondent for Al Jazeera English, argued on Democracy Now that France's campaign was driven by its resource interests in the region. Meanwhile, the archbishop of Accra wondered if the intervention was not another "colonisation attempt."
To be sure, the weakness of the Malian state is tied, in part, to the legacy of French colonialism. And critics are not wrong to point out that France has important strategic and economic interests in the region. (France's nuclear power plants feed off the uranium mines in nearby Niger.) But the idea that these factors drove France's intervention is incorrect.
In reality, the Malian army could not withstand the advances of Tuareg separatists last March and had no chance of holding off an offensive by the jihadists. Particularly after the fall of Konna, the Malian government was in real need of help. The troops that ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) promised to send were simply too slow to materialize, so France stepped in.
On the street, Malians are generally supportive of international assistance. According to accounts from the field, the majority of Malians support France's intervention. For now at least, people are waving the French flag in the streets of Bamako (merchants claim that the flags are in short supply) and some Malian mothers are even naming their newborns "Hollande."
Of course, France's welcome will wear thin as the conflict drags on...
Anyone who saw the recapture of this town of 35,000 people after its brief occupation by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) had no doubt that they were witnessing a liberation.
One group of brightly dressed women thanked me personally, treating my protestation that I was not French as a show of modesty. Here in the town of Ségou, 100 miles to the south, Tricolours also fly from shops, homes and tree trunks.
Perhaps this is only a deceptive "golden hour" before popular acclaim turns into resentment and suspicion. Perhaps the Malians who wave at French soldiers today will be tossing grenades at them tomorrow.
But, somehow, I doubt it. Instead, the early days of France's expedition to Mali suggest that assumptions about al-Qaeda's supposedly vice-like grip on its new heartland in north Africa are mistaken.
David Cameron is right to warn that this is a battle for our values and way of life which will take years, even decades. It is also a battle we cannot shirk.
Perhaps, thanks to the firm action from progressives like Hollande, the tide is finally starting to turn against the kneejerk pacifists. ['Pacifists'? - N.G.]
Mali's Islamic leaders praised the French-led intervention to oust insurgents controlling two-thirds of the West African nation as the US said it was ready to offer support to the mission.
"The intervention of France in Mali has nothing to do with a fight against Islam," Mahmoud Dicko, president of the Islamic High Council of Mali, told reporters in Bamako, the capital, on Tuesday. "It is a fight against crime and terrorism."
Hold everything! I nearly forgot these two.
Glenn Greenwald: 'the rhetoric that the west is not at war with the Islamic world grows increasingly hollow with each new expansion of this militarism'. Seumas Milne: 'armed intervention is being ratcheted up in yet another part of the Muslim world.'
Perhaps forgetting them would have been better. Do they suggest to you another meaning for the word 'drone'?