January 25 2013
photo by European External Action Service/Flickr.com
This commentary appeared on U.S. News & World Report on January 24, 2013.
The objectives of the French operation in Mali are exactly the reverse of the NATO intervention two years ago in Libya. And once the air strikes in Mali had begun, France had little choice but to put boots on the ground. France's allies, including the United States, now need to back the intervention militarily, politically, and diplomatically.
France's decision to bomb targets in rebel held areas in Mali was initially met with widespread approval, including the backing of the United Nations Security Council. The French decision to follow up those strikes with ground forces has received a less enthusiastic response, given France's imperial history in the region and weariness in Europe about military interventions involving boots on the ground. Earlier this week, Paris and Washington were in a row over who would foot the bill for the C-17 transport aircraft the United States was using to help haul French troops into theater.