I suppose if a nation can go bomb people somewhere, it makes the people feel like their country is relevant and their leaders are manly men. Even if the leader is Margaret Thatcher. I just hope Angela Merkel doesn't get into the act. Germany in another war is not a comforting thought. The US in another war is not a comforting thought either.
On the other side of the argument, there's a lot to be said for France stepping up to plate, and pushing back Islamic fascism. My understanding of the war in Mali is that it started with the Tuareg people, in the northern half of the country, wanting independence. They have a nomadic lifestyle going back for over a millenia, and were being treated as 2nd class citizens by the government in Bamako. In their quest for independence, they allied themselves with an extremist Islamist faction called Ansar Dine. Well, when the Tuareg's claimed victory, their former allies turned on them militarily, defeated the Tuareg, and have instituted strict Sharia Law in the area they control. You know, all the wonderful freedoms and rights Sharia Law graciously affords women, religious minorities, and the gay community. Now, the Islamists want to take over the whole country.
Peace is a wonderful thing. But not at the cost of servile subjection. Especially, by those who claim Islam is peace, and if you disagree with them, make a video of sawing your head off. We criticize the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan. I see no reason to give their degenerate ideological brethren a pass in any other part of the world. Vive la France!
Hollande has said it will take as long as it takes so it could be a long innings. Recent history shows that world military powers have a complicated and often unattainable task in defeating insurgencies at ground level.
Ideally, Germany should join France in the war and conclude it in the short term in my opinion.
As should the rest of the European Union. As you mentioned in your post, as least Great Britain is lending support in matériel for the French, who are doing the heavy work
The issue is more complex than that.
The Tuaregs, long in revolt against Mali's government to form an autonomous region in the deep Sahara, invited in al-Qaida folk to help them in their fight.
A combination of a military coup in Mali coupled with the alliance between the two forces drove the government out of the north. Then al-Qaida turned on their Tuareg allies and forced them out of the country.
Then the al-Qaida led forces marched on the south toward the capital, whilst simultaneously fostering more revolts in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
France became concerned that al-Qaida would actually succeed in taking a nation and making it a base to attack Europe. ECOWAS, the West African cooperation group, obtained UN sanction to insert troops into Mali to eject al-Qaida, but is unable to get started before September.
As al-Qaida advanced toward the capital last week, France decided to act. As far as it is concerned, al-Qaida is already at war with France (as they are with the USA). France would rather fight al-Qaida on other territory than their own.
It has nothing to do with "feeling relevant," though the ECOWAS nations are all former French colonies and look to France for stability. In the absence of foreign intervention, Mali would collapse.
Of note, France lost a helicopter in combat to a surface-to-air missile. The al-Qaida enemy is extremely well-armed. In addition, the Taliban from Pakistan have said they would send advisers and fighters to bolster al-Qaida's defence.
About two weeks ago the foreign minister of France announced to the world that "France is not the world's gendarme." (That is the equivalent of Americans saying we are not the world's police.) But such an operation is not launched off the cuff: it seems more likely the foreign minister's statement was a ruse designed to lull the al-Qaida opposition into believing France would not involve itself.
France also notes that Mali is not very far from France itself. They view the operation as self-defence against an implacable foe which declared war on them some time ago. They would rather do that defence on someone else's territory.
Unfortunately, as the people of northern Mali are learning, when you make a deal with the devil, you can expect to go to hell. I can't imagine....
You've all humbled me by making more reasoned and informed responses than I did. Something I take pride in doing myself but did not this time.
So I will do some reading on the situation.
I do prefer that nations not invade nations preemptively. US in Iraq is prime example. But I have no evidence to say that Hollande is somehow comparable to Bush or Thatcher.
In France's case it is not a pre-emptive invasion, as al-Qaida already has invaded and overrun more than half the country. ECOWAS already had approval from the UN Security Council (15-0, Russia and China in rare non-abstentions), but could not get off the dime before September.
France on the other hand viewed the situation as a national security risk for itself.
Yesterday the Security Council again voted (15-0) to support the French move.
As for the people of northern Mali, they did not do a deal with the devil, as was mentioned above. The Tuareg folk did. The civilians in northern Mali are simply caught between warring factions, and Anser Dine (the al-Qaida group in Mali) is terrorising the entire civilian populace, and has invited al-Qaida of the Maghreb in to help them.
There is no sane nation on Earth that wants al-Qaida to have its own country, hence even Russia and China approving France's move.
The USA has agreed to provide logistical help to France (in the same manner as the UK), though no troops. The USA will also provide intelligence to France (something that only costs us a bit of time as we already have the satellites in orbit).
Sometimes it is difficult to keep up with all the doings in far-flung nations, unless you are a security and military junkie like me, Mr. Biped.
I am no military junkie or security junkie. I think I'll go out an stir he compost now. :)
The Taureg folks were the people I meant. They are Mali too, and I really did have a lot of sympathy for them. Mali is a sort of artificial state, a relic of French colonialism, much like post-colonial India. And like India, where disparate people groups were forced together and later split apart, the Taureg simply wanted self-determination. Unfortunately, they seem now to be in a much worse place than they started.