Saturday, January 19, 2013

I Really, Really Lack the Nuance Gene

So our deep plan for Mali is to let the jihadis sit in northern Mali for as long as it takes us to get a vast multi-national coalition wielding perhaps 7 thousand troops to fight the jihadis, with Algeria being the state we must have and whose absence justifies waiting to take action? And Algeria's direct--if clumsy--armed action agains those jihadis in the hostage crisis at that gas plant wrecks our strategy? I don't get it.

Really, this article (tip to Instapundit) basically asserts that the decision by the Algerian government to assault the jihadis holding hostages undermines our strategy to persuade Algeria to fight jihadis:

The hostage crisis in Algeria has upended the Obama administration’s strategy for coordinating an international military campaign against al-Qaeda fighters in North Africa, leaving U.S., European and African leaders even more at odds over how to tackle the problem.

For months, U.S. officials have intensively lobbied Algeria — whose military is by far the strongest in North Africa — to help intervene in next-door Mali, where jihadists and other rebels have established a well-defended base of operations. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other high-ranking U.S. officials made repeated visits to Algiers in the fall in a bid to persuade the oil-rich country to contribute troops to a U.N.-backed military force in Mali.

But Algeria’s unilateral decision to attack kidnappers at a natural gas plant — while shunning outside help, imposing a virtual information blackout and disregarding international pleas for caution — has dampened hopes that it might cooperate militarily in Mali, U.S. officials said. The crisis has strained ties between Algiers and Washington and increased doubts about whether Algeria can be relied upon to work regionally to dismantle al-Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa.

Perhaps it is just me, but didn't the Mali jihadis rather than Algeria upend the Obama strategy? I know, the strategy called for the jihadis to just sit there, content to bulldoze cultural artifacts and lop off the odd hand now and again, until we got our magical coalition in place some time in the autumn.

But not only does the enemy get a vote in war, they don't even have to play the same game we want them to play. The jihadis struck first rather than wait for us to finally get ready. And the jihadis struck Algeria, too.

Maybe--and again, perhaps this is just me--we could use some of our so-called smart and nuanced diplomacy to use this hostage crisis to convince Algeria that they really do have a stake in cooperating with our efforts to defeat al Qaeda in Mali and the region. Couldn't we somehow point out how not cooperating with us very much still did not insulate Algeria from the jihadis' wrath? Might that not be a line of conversation? Hmm?

After all, as we try to persuade Algeria to fight the jihadis, didn't they demonstrate their willingness to fight and kill jihadis?

I guess I just don't get that whole nuance thing.

UPDATE: Thanks to Instapundit for the link, who also mentions this article, which includes this gem of analysis to lead off the story:

The kidnapping of American and other Western hostages at a natural gas plant in Algeria by Islamic militants possibly in retaliation for France's military intervention in neighboring Mali, illuminates an unfortunate reality: France has inflamed the African region.

Yes, fighting back is what inflames the region. Not al Qaeda taking over half a country or mounting a terrorist assault on another country to target the citizens of even more countries. No, no. Holy nuance requires us to appreciate that it is France's fault--with a minor assist to Algeria.

I will say that the author validly brings up the idea that the Tuaregs of the north need to be brought into this to make intervention against the jihadis really work. I've said so myself. But blaming France for inflaming the situation? Sheer idiocy.

UPDATE: While one should be careful of taking jihadis at their word, even they aren't blaming France's intervention for their operation:

The attack by the Mali-based Masked Brigade, founded by Algerian militant Moktar Belmoktar, had been in the works for two months, a member of the brigade told the ANI news outlet. He said militants targeted Algeria because they expected the country to support the international effort to root out extremists in neighboring Mali and it was carried out by a special commando unit, "Those Who Signed in Blood," tasked with attacking nations supporting intervention in Mali.

That was a stupid contingency plan, based on a full attack on a country reluctant to back France and which restricted its cooperation to allowing French aircraft to overgly Algerian air space. The Athenians could school the jihadis on this approach to waging war. Creating new enemies while the existing ones fight isn't smart. But it is jihadi-like.