Sunday, January 27, 2013

Restoring Our Relations Abroad

Man, it must be rough when even France can't pass that "international test" before intervening to fight jihadis.

France and American are experiencing some friction over Mali:

France's military intervention in Mali has revived trans-Atlantic tensions over security issues, this time involving a key counterterrorism battlefield, along with dismay from critics who see U.S. President Barack Obama as too reluctant to use military force.

According to interviews with officials from both sides, the French have privately complained about what they see as paltry and belated American military support for their troop deployment, aimed at stopping the advance of militants allied with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

The Americans question whether French President Francois Hollande's armed intervention, which is entering its third week, was coupled with a thought-through exit strategy.

With both countries run by social democrat presidents, what's the excuse for the lack of agreement?

Let me start out with a defense of our assistance to France. France shares our interest in defeating jihadis there, but France will reap the benefits of upholding the status quo in Mali and the region. So the French should step to the lead. I've long argued that. No Blood for Whatever the Hell They've Got, eh?

And this is priceless French outrage:

U.S. support has been "minimal" in practice, one U.S. official acknowledged on condition of anonymity. Washington, this official said, gave France a "hard time" when they asked for increased support, and the French will "remember us for that."

I'm sorry. Didn't we repay France for their selfless commitment to fighting Saddam and al Qaeda in Iraq? Or perhaps--as we watch French troops setting land-speed records in Mali by advancing on Gao and Timbuktu--we failed to appreciate the caveat-laden French contingent in Afghanistan that suffered more casualties from gout than from the Taliban?

Ah, memories!

But we are providing help as I long thought appropriate: logistics (transport and aerial refueling) and intelligence. I'd also help with special forces and armed drones, but that status isn't clear from my figurative basement.

Lafayette, you are there!

But I digress (as I can).

But I will stand with the French as we complain about the French plan. I swear to God, this is rich coming from the administration that gave us the Libya War. Remember that grand plan with its carefully thought-through exit strategy? Me neither.

Unless we planned for ungoverned spaces in Libya that led to a jihadi assault on our Benghazi diplomatic staff, the blowback of Tuareg mercenaries fleeing Libya with their arms to destabilize Mali, and a lovely bloodbath at an Algerian natural gas plant. You mean that plan?

The French at least seem committed to killng jihadis as job one. That's not the only job, but anything after that requires lots of dead jihadis and the survivors too frightened to do anything but flee.

Oh, and while I'm working up a caffeine-enhanced outrage about strategic stupidity, let me tackle the related complaint bound up with that "plan" bitching: our complaint that France has no "exit strategy." Grr.

This is what I'd do to anyone associated with our foreign or defense policies who spout about the need for an "exit strategy."

I don't want one damn epaulet or ribbon left. But talk of "innocence" is misplaced unless you are using it as a synonym for "naive."

This is a long-held complaint of mine. Let me quote myself from a 1997 publication magically on the Internet because some old server hasn't been wiped clean after I stopped using their services many years ago:

Not wanting to repeat our experience in Vietnam, many speak of needing an "exit strategy" before committing troops. Such an approach seeks to minimize our losses under the assumption that we will at some point lose, so we had better know when to cut our losses and get out. It also assumes that the situation allows for an exit and that our enemy will allow it. The Iraqis desperately waned out of the war they initiated in 1980 but were locked by Iran in a death grip that allowed for no easy exit. While planning for a tough resilient enemy is prudent, we must never become paralyzed by concentrating on how that enemy can hurt us. We need to keep our focus on achieving victory.

The French, at least, seem to want to focus on defeating the jihadis. If you mean "how do we win?" when you speak of wanting an exit strategy, just ask "how do we win?" If you can't do that, I don't want to talk to you. Our troops deserve better than that.

As we boast of "responsibly ending" wars and plan to cut our military (coughHagelcough), let us remember that these plans count on our enemies allowing us to exit and avoid wars. If the jihadis are willing to set up camp in northern Mali--which lies at the intersection of No and Where, for God's sake (pun intended)--why would we think they are equally tired of war?

I guess my 16-year-old essay is still relevant.

But heck, I suppose our most French-looking senator is just the man to restore our reputation with France and explain to them why they didn't pass that international test that France used to figure so high in the scoring.