Mali: Let It Collapse, Duh!

Mali is a landlocked state created by imperialist France in the late 19th century. Due to the Western intervention in Libya, in which NATO bombed the brutal dictator Moammar Ghaddafi out of power, a large wave of unrest has reached the Saharan states of Mali, Chad, and Niger.

Recently, a coup overthrew the democratically elected head of the Malian state, and an insurgency in the north just declared its independence from Bamako. This is a good thing, and I will get to why this event is a good thing, but first I want to lament the way in which the West is handling this secession. The West seems intent on keeping its creation alive and propped up, regardless of the incessant pulls away from these structures that post-colonial states often face. I have criticized this aspect of Western foreign policy before, in regards to Somalia, Nigeria, and Libya, but it appears that the West is much more open to the idea of its creations falling apart than it used to be. Indeed, the Daily Star, a Lebanese daily newspaper, reports:

“In Paris, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France is ready to help African forces on a logistical level. The chief of staff of the French army, Adm. Edouard Guillaud, traveled Thursday to Burkina Faso to discuss details with the president.

However, Juppe ruled out any military intervention. He said there could only be a resolution to the Tuareg-led rebellion via political dialogue and called for regional cooperation to fight Al-Qaeda’s expansion in the area.

‘There will not be a military solution with the Tuaregs. There must be a political solution,’ Juppe said, adding that countries in the region had to begin talks to accomplish this.”

This is a big step forward for the West, and I think that policymakers are finally beginning to shake off their Cold War-entrenched mindsets and starting to treat post-colonial states less like pawns on a chessboard and more like partners. Unfortunately, I don’t think the West is doing enough in cases of state failure. While the French are willing to let the regional states of western Africa try to ameliorate the situation in Mali, it appears that these states, led by a oft-fractured and secession-prone Ivory Coast, want to ensure that no breakup happens.

Nothing could be worse for peace and prosperity on the African continent.

The wars, the famines, and the bloodshed in Africa have all been caused in large part by secessionist movements throughout the region since independence from imperial Europe. During the Cold War, the US and USSR fought to preserve these states and funded a number of secessionist and nationalist movements throughout the decades following World War 2, due to the professed loyalties of secessionist or nationalist movements to communism or democracy (the West lost the war of ideas big time, and ended up supporting anti-capitalist, anti-democratic dictators anyway). Those days are long gone, however, and it’s time for more effort on the part of the West to bless the destruction of the state system they created during the imperial years of the mid-to-late 19th century.

If the West is serious about promoting peace and prosperity throughout the world, they would do well to seize on the fracture of the post-colonial states they created and formally recognize these states into the larger state system. If they continue to support, implicitly or explicitly, the structures of these post-colonial states, then there will continue to be much more strife and bloodshed throughout the post-colonial world. Recognizing the legitimacy of breakaway regions would ensure that these states have both carrots and sticks when it comes to domestic politics as well.  For example, if a breakaway region wants to declare its statehood based upon a dominate nationality, then the West and others could use membership into the community of nations as a way to ensure that these states take the utmost care to avoid persecution minority nationalities living within the new states.

Bottom line, if the West is really open to more states in the post-colonial world, and we appear to be moving in this direction, then recognizing the legitimacy of breakaway regions is a great way to start. The big key to ensuring a peaceful process in this regard though, is consensus. This means that Russia and China will be needed to recognize this legitimacy, and one of the best way to get these secession-wary states on board is to stay away from their peripheries, fess up about our imperial past, and explain to them that more states (but one market) is much better for world stability. Just think, Europe from Portugal to the border of Russia is about a third the size of the African continent, yet both regions have roughly fifty states each. That’s a big problem.

A second big key to ensuring peace is implementing free trade throughout the regions that have just broken apart. It is imperative that these states stay connected to the world market, otherwise isolation will make it all the more tempting for demagogues and Generals to seize control and dictate for life.

Self-government is a key component of individual freedom, and I think that an active, but not coercive, role can be played on the part of the West in ensuring that individuals within its former empires are given more opportunity for self-government.  Foreign policy is a key component of the minimal state, and as long as coercion or condescension plays no role in the efforts of policymakers abroad, I don’t see why the US and other Western states cannot be active in world affairs.

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Azawad, the breakaway region trying to secure legitimacy.

12 thoughts on “Mali: Let It Collapse, Duh!

  1. Interesting piece. When I took African History and Culture in college, we learned that Mali, Ghana, and Songhai were the kingdoms in the history of Africa. The great Mansa Musa, King of Mali in the 1300’s. It is said that he was so generous, and distributed so much gold throughout the kindom, that the worth of gold was significantly devalued.

    Is it true? Who can say for certain? I’m not Indiana Jones — I haven’t been to Africa — but I probably am in the 20 that know 80 times more than the 80 about Non-Egyptian Africa. I have no proof for this, but your post and some other knowledge from documentaries and websites have inspired me to an interesting conclusion that Mali may have collapsed due to their backing of the American Slave trade (Dutch East India Company/Triangle Trade).

    One thing I’ve learned is that anyone can be enslaved, irrespective of race, color, creed, religion, or political beliefs and slavery has been around, as a fact of life since the earliest recorded history. Take that fact and then throw in these:

    1) Many Western African tribes, mostly dark skinned negroids (commonly called “black”) (NOTE: This doesn’t mean mediterranean types — this means someone who is dark black, like charcoal or espresso, because that was the complexion of those tribes like the Zulu, Ashanti, etc. who inhabited areas outside the boundaries of the wealthiest African empires) sold captives from neighboring tribes into slavery TO OTHER BLACK AFRICANS.

    2) I suppose this is a matter of perspective, but I feel that no matter what the situation is, slavery is just plain wrong. In it’s simplest form, slavery is making others do for you what you would not do and giving them no choice in the matter. The day is coming when those bomb-sniffing robots will gain a level of sentience and self-preservation that they will refuse to work and revolt. To some that may sound like science fiction but if take into consideration that Newt Gingrich’s congress funded a study at Case Western Law School to come up with methods to determine if a human hybrid (think werewolves, minotaurs, etc.) had commited a murder. Scary shit coming. But, it is coming. Don’t believe me — Look it up for yourselves.

    Shit. As usual, I’m digressing. So, let me just wrap up by summarizing my thoughts:

    Black Africans sold rivals into slavery and enslaved other tribes long before Europeans and Norwegians decided to make a business out of it. If Karma is real and what comes around goes around in multiples (x3 say the wiccans, x10 says the Bible), then chances are the Destruction/Implosion of the Kingdom of Mali (the original one) was karmic retribution for their participation in the North-Atlantic slave trade.

    I think similarly about the Native americans of North and South America. Maybe destruction of their civilizations, and way of life was karmic retribution for the attrocities they committed to other neigboring tribes as well as their own people? Perhaps this is looking at the past with todays eyes but I don’t think so. It seems to me, that slavery is never justified and neither is human sacrifice. Further, as someone who is deeply into origins of everything (etmology, epistemology, anthropology, etc.) and as a student of history, it seems most likely that the way the masses of pre-colombian societies got the idea that human sacrifice was necessary to prevent crop failure and keep the sun rising, etc., was that it was a disingenuous invention of the “elites” (per each culture) (NOTE: “elites” ALWAYS are rich and or powerful — that’s what makes them elite).

    As in any advanced culture, fear and oppression, as well as carefully orchestrated propaganda campaigns were used to keep people under control. I suspect that if we had a magic crystal ball that would give us all the answers about what happened in the past, we would find, as is the case today still in various parts of the world, that those who spotted the little man pulling the levers behind the Wizard’s curtain and dared to proclaim that “the emperor wears no clothes”, probably found themselves the next to be sacrificed.

    However, I doubt today’s Mali has anything to do with the Mali of Mansa Musa’s time, much the same way that today’s Israel is a British political fiction and his nothing to do the actual Israel of the Bible. Thus, I agree with your post — Let Mali collapse. What you will do, is watch stock markets, and watch Rothschild family holdings. I suspect that if you can determine what the Rothschild’s interest in these matters are, then you could predict whether Mali will be left on it’s own, or will be strictly controlled by the British Empire.

    Finally, here is a little quote from one of the Greatest rulers/conquerors of the world, Ghengis Khan. This quote, I think, sums up the who concept of karmic retribution, and what I believe to the true cause of the collapse of great societies:

    “I am the punishment of God. If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you!” — Khengis Khan

    Keep up the great posts.

    – Dr. Tempus Chronicum

    • Dr. Chronicum,

      Thanks for the kind words. Just three things:

      It is said that he was so generous, and distributed so much gold throughout the kindom, that the worth of gold was significantly devalued.

      The great inflation you are referring to happened in Egypt and Arabia when Mansa Musa made a Hajj to Mecca. He did indeed spend lots of gold in Egypt and Arabia, so much so that he actually bought back much of the gold at higher than average interest due to the severe price fluctuations that his gold caused.

      […] conclusion that Mali may have collapsed due to their backing of the American Slave trade […]

      Not quite. The Mali Empire ended at around the same time that the slave trade was just beginning to pick up steam. The collapse of the Malian state is largely attributed to corruption and war. On the other hand, the forces pulling markets away from Mali’s gold fields and towards the coastal empires and confederations where slaves were sold does suggest that your hypothesis has much merit.

      slavery is just plain wrong.

      Agreed! Although I don’t quite understand your musings about karma and the Rothschild family. Perhaps you could elaborate on these themes for us? For the benefit of our readers, ourselves, and anybody else who may happen to drop on by?

  2. Very nicely put . In the world today, the big countries want to earn the influence in the world in whatever way possible and it is less about providing all world citizens the same rights and way of life. Some countries Russia and China oppose for the sake of winning more influence from the entrenched elites ruling any country. Values of democracy, human rights etc matter even less for these two countries. The west also becomes oblivious of values and rights whenever it goes against their national interest e.g. Saudi Arabia society. When, both sides(East and West) are disdainful of human rights etc, the cynicism creeps in as it becomes obvious that nothing can ever change. A country need strong leadership for a change within that country. Democracies usually provide very weak leaderships, so besides cynicism conspiracy theories, paranoia takes hold. At international level also, in big countries like US, Russia, China leaders who take more initiative are needed and not who always believe in providing consensus politics. I am thinking that Reagan was better in taking initiative by stopping SALT 2 and proposing SALT3 which became START(Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) signed by Obama. So, an initiative is needed for bringing a change in world by the top leadership and I do not see it happening by present set of leaders – Obama and Putin etc. Chinese leadership is changing and is too myopic any way. US is about to embark on election year so, nothing will move there. Putin is as usual, a road blocker, so the world has to stay put.

    • Geekay,

      Thanks for the kind words, but I fear you are far too cynical. The world isn’t going to get any better with such cynicism, my friend. So c’mon, and let’s be optimistic together!

    • You could perhaps see some optimism creeping in from unknown quarters – like UN’s Kofi Annan succeeding in bringing peace to Syria, or some initiative taken by Europe(which I doubt will ever happen). Initiative taken by a leader depends not only on forceful personality but also maturity and the experience of that leader. European leaders lack the experience (Most of them are young ones) to showcase their forceful personality unless their hands are forced. Also, the European leaders believe in consensus politics due to EU politics, so the initiative will not come naturally easy to them at all. So, when US is election tied, China is to undergo leadership change, Putin is unable to rise to the table ever. He will block perpetually on Iran, Syria etc until he is unable to control events, I can not see bubbles of optimism rising from this cesspool. Who wants to be cynic, surely I do not. I only judge optimism on the probability of its happening.

  3. The ultimate flaw with Azawad though isn’t that Europeans or neighboring countries don’t want it to exist, I think eventually they could overcome that if they didn’t have the following one: the real problem is that a majority in Azawad don’t want it to exist. Tuaregs aren’t united over this issue, and even if they were they make up nowhere near the majority in the region they claim, nor do they have any arguments for having been in the area longer than the other ethnicities. I think one reason actually that the neighboring countries don’t want it to exist is they know that ethnic violence would flare up in “Azawad” and they would have to take refugees. The Songhai formed militias in the 90’s to respond to Tuareg rebels and things turned very ugly for a brief period.

    While your premise may be correct in a general sense Azawad isn’t really a case of “self-governance.” If the separatists limited their claim to Kidal they would have a better argument but they would also be the most landlocked state in the world with no agriculture at all and no access to the river for trade.

    • Moussa,

      Thank you for the thoughtful reply. Just two things:

      I think one reason actually that the neighboring countries don’t want it to exist is they know that ethnic violence would flare up in “Azawad” and they would have to take refugees. The Songhai formed militias in the 90′s to respond to Tuareg rebels and things turned very ugly for a brief period.

      True, but during the ’90’s there was no international recognition of the rebellion as legitimate. If the international community had recognized the secession as legitimate, then the violence would not have been so bad. Ethnic violence only seems to flare up when legitimacy is questioned or outright ignored by the international community. Just think of the comparison between the Czechoslovakian divorce and the mess in the Balkans and the role that international recognition played.

      If the separatists limited their claim to Kidal they would have a better argument but they would also be the most landlocked state in the world with no agriculture at all and no access to the river for trade.

      All the more reason the recognize the sovereignty of Azawad! Once the new state is recognized as legitimate, it would have certain responsibilities to attend to. It would have to be careful not to violate the rights of minorities due to threat of international condemnations, and even further decentralization would have to be on the table as well. Imagine: instead of Mali, we would have three or four or even twenty smaller states in its place. What a wonder to behold! And the best resource a state has is its people. As long as the new states keep their borders open to the rest of the world and protect private property rights, then there would be nothing to worry about.

      As it stands, the thing Africans have to worry about most these days are dictators trying to isolate their people from the rest of the world and uncertainty pertaining to the protection of private property. Smaller states would lead to less of both.

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