US military planners failed to anticipate Mali's collapse in the face of Islamist rebels, but the west let the rot set in years before
One might think, from reading the breathless newspaper coverage, that the United States only discovered Mali after Islamist militants from Libya got there first; or, alternately, that the infusion and failure of US training for Mali's military is the proximate cause (or at least the failure that can be blamed) for the current sufferings of Mali's people and the aggressive military response led by France. In both cases, one would be wrong.
For a full decade, American and other western leaders have been trumpeting Mali's importance as a beacon of African democracy and a bulwark in regional security. Yet its economic growth trailed off to virtually nothing, and its civilian government collapsed - to complete western surprise. Is counterterrorism really to blame?
Mali's late civilian government, which first came to power in 1991 after three decades of military rule post-independence, was a beloved poster child for African democracy. As recently as last year, a German foundation could publish a report saying (pdf):[view whole blog post ]