France’s involvement in Africa – victory or defeat?

France’s military involvement in Africa should concern us all, not because of their involvement, but because of France’s lack of decisiveness, and, moreover, because of the absence of broad support from its European partners and the from United States in France’s involvement. From time to time, the world awakens to the growing threat of Islamist terrorism to the West, its culture, its independence, and its way of life. However, following such awakenings, the West, in the end, displays a lack of willingness to conduct a real battle and take  an unequivocal stand on issues of civilian security.

During the Clinton administration, America engaged in an “adventure” in Somalia. Somalia returned the threat of maritime piracy to the global agenda. Somalia is an anarchic state with no respect for international law and order, wholly dedicated to terrorism, which it forced upon the Indian Ocean. Somalia brought the world back to an era of piracy, which is generally associated with fantastic Hollywood films. America’s involvement in Somalia failed miserably, as President Bill Clinton directed the American forces to pack their bags and flee by the skins of their teeth, fearing defeat at the hands of the terrorist organization that had taken over in 1993.

Clinton’s behavior in Somalia is reminiscent of the behavior of the United States during the seizure of hostages in Tehran in 1979. The American Embassy in Tehran was occupied by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, a sign of complete disrespect to America. The hesitancy of President Carter brought about 444 days of humiliation and daily disgrace of the great superpower, and keep silent in the face of events culminating in U.S. army landing in the Iranian desert, destroyed before real battle could ensue, due to unwillingness to engage in true military combat.

Going to war against Afghanistan and Iraq following the events of September 11, returned a certain pride to the American public, as the people felt that their leadership was prepared to take the front to enemy territory, particularly following shock and horror of massive terror attacks on the most important symbols of the American way of life. But with the passage of time and the difficulties of these wars,  American isolationism increased, and the United States began its retreat from  Afghanistan and Iraq, even though these countries continue to threaten her as before.

Furthermore, North Korea is challenging the United States and its allies in Asia, but West seemed hesitant in its ability to respond, as North Korean provocations remain unchallenged.

More recently, the United States was dragged by Turkey and Qatar to overthrow Gaddafi, but has since refrained from interfering in any way in the continuing post-Qadafi civil war that is taking place there. The United States previously attempted to court Bashar Assad , and supported Turkey’s attempt to impose a peace settlement on Israel, but in the end took the side of an Islamist coalition which has revolted against the Assad regime, in order to end minority rule over Syria, and enable what will surely turn out to be Islamist rule. However, again in Syria, the West has lacked the unequivocal determination in order to end the bloodshed and facilitate a new future for Syria.

Africa has become an international arena for extremist Islamic forces, as the fingerprints of radical Islamic organizations are evident across the continent. Algeria, which held a democratic election in which Islamists were victorious, is conducting a long, bloody war against fundamentalist organizations. Hundreds of thousands of casualties on all sides continue to flood the country with rivers of blood. The West anxiously observes, but does nothing. Although the Islamists won democratic elections in Algeria, the military and secular forces have denied their victory, and civil war has ensued.

Islamic forces’ control of Mali, a country with an area larger than France, is a threat not only to West Africa, but also the whole of Europe. The Islamists involved in this episode do not pretend that lovers of freedom, democracy or peace, but show their true faces to the world without fear or prejudice, and attempt to destroy all the values that the West holds dear, arguing that these values are contradictory to Islam. France faces this enemy alone, as its Western allies have yet to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with France in the face of this challenge.

The West displays great hesitancy when engaging in self-defense. Mali has become a terrorist state, where terrorists which kidnap civilians and ransom the West, while serving as an intermediary between South America, the Middle East and Europe in drug trafficking. Despite Islamic terror posing an existential threat to the West, its opposition is hesitant and equivocal.

The West tends to only exert force in countries where it is confident of victory, but fearful of getting involved other areas where success is not guaranteed.

Therefore, allies of the West must be concerned, as Mubarak and even Gaddafi, who agreed to disband his assets nuclear and weapons of mass destruction, understood in their last moments that Western support could not be counted on, as terrorism and fundamentalists raise their heads in the face of a weakened West, which was once considered all-powerful, and today appears limp and frightened.

The West appears to be repeating the policies of Chamberlain at the onset of the Second World War, who preached concessions, and believed that willingness to compromise was indicative ofreal power, and that defeatism is the way to world peace, termed by Chamberlain “peace in our time.”

The Mali crisis should serve as a warning to the West and the free world, and such “writing on the wall” often serves as prophesy of events in the not-too-distant future.

About the Author
Dr David Altman is senior vice-president at the Netanya Academic College and vice-chair of the college's Strategic Dialogue Center