Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 104 Re-run

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Description: Interventions, Interference, and Invasions: Nate and Bill lead a world tour of the post-WWII history of countries entering other countries’ civil wars and uprisings, for good or ill, and what it means for the future. (We talk about Cuba, Angola, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Indonesia, Guatemala, Libya, Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, and many others.) People: Bill, Nate. Originally produced: October 20th, 2014. Re-edited and abridged: April 19, 2017.

Discussion Points:

– Kissinger’s plan to bomb Cuba and what the future of the embargo is
– CIA history: Why arming rebels has often failed and what it means for US plans in Syria now
– What does the future hold for international and unilateral military interventions in armed conflicts and crises? Is the UN still relevant?

Episode 104-Abridged (54 min)
AFD 104

Related links
Segment 1

NYT: Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show
AFD: Jimmy Carter’s Election Prevented a Disastrous War in Cuba

Segment 2

NYT: CIA Study Says Arming Rebels Seldom Works

Segment 3

AFD: Confusion in Libya as Egyptian jets bomb Benghazi
AFD: US suddenly surprised to find Mideast states acting unilaterally
AFD: Is the US-led Syria operation vs ISIS legal under international law?
AFD: France announces indefinite Sahel deployment
AFD: France: Back to Africa?

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Op-Ed | France and the West: Inconvenient Questions

This essay originally appeared in The Globalist.

January 2013: French troops being airlifted to Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)

January 2013: French troops being airlifted to Mali. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Nathanael Callon)

Nothing can ever justify or excuse an act of terrorism against civilians. But that does not absolve us from truly comprehending the links between the foreign and military policy approaches pursued by Western governments and the reactions this generates.

The aftermath of a terrorist attack is an especially difficult time to ask difficult questions about strategy. But just as the United States has faced a lot of (justified) criticism for refusing to acknowledge the direct linkages between misguided interventions and blowback incidents, we cannot apply a different yardstick to France.

Watch for the warmongers

This is all the more critical as, in the wake of the events in Paris, there are those pundits and policymakers who are trying to let slip the dogs of war or beat the drums by defining the scourge of “radical Islam” and “homegrown terrorism” as the root of all evil.

If we should have learned one thing by now, it is that tough talk is not the same as serious, strategic policymaking. It is irresponsible to undertake foreign policies without accurately representing to the public the likely risks to them that it will create.

As we assess the future approach, we must also take account of the role that Western governments have played in creating this catastrophe.

This applies especially to all those who glibly claim that ISIS “cannot be contained; it must be defeated,” as Hillary Clinton has just done.

Such an argument conveniently overlooks the fact that it was the U.S. government that inadvertently gave rise to this movement. Its decades of invasions and unpopular interference in the region ultimately culminated in the Pandora’s box war of choice in Iraq. Out of, and in reaction to, these policies grew al Qaeda and ISIS.

The advocates of such a strategy must also explain what can possibly be accomplished by responding with yet more force in an already war-torn region.

An eye for an eye strategy, while sounding principled, makes the whole world blind to the pitfalls such an approach has been triggering.

The French example

France can actually serve as Exhibit A of the pitfalls of a more “muscular” approach. The cruel attacks in Paris are demonstrably reactive in nature.

The unfortunate reality no one wants to discuss at the moment is that France’s Presidents Nicolas Sarkozy (2007-2012) and François Hollande (2012-present) have pushed the envelope for modern France on maintaining a highly aggressive and forcible military presence in majority Muslim countries.

Not since perhaps the Algerian War has France meddled with, sent troops to or bombed so many predominantly Muslim regions in such a short span.

President Sarkozy led regime change in Libya by air campaign in 2011 at the nadir of his domestic popularity. We know what that resulted in. He did it for oil and whatever it was that Iraq War apologist Bernard-Henry Lévy promised him would transpire.

But his successor, President Hollande, went way, way farther — claiming, almost George W. Bush style, that he was fighting ‘them’ over there to protect France from terrorist attacks at home. This approach painted a much bigger target on France’s back.

Hollande’s misadventures

The Hollande record is this: First, he invaded Mali in January 2013, after it collapsed as part of fallout from the Libya meltdown. He did so purportedly to stop terrorism and prevent the creation of a terrorism launching pad near Europe (despite Libya being much closer and truly festering).

In December 2013, he then invaded Central African Republic to ‘save’ Christians from Muslim militias that had already been disbanded. (It did not help that French troops now implicated in widespread child abuse stood by as Christian militias mutilated Muslim civilians’ corpses in front of them.)

In May 2014, Hollande announced a large, permanent rapid strike force deployment to five “Sahel-Sahara” West African nations, all of which were majority or plurality Muslim. He sent jets to bomb Iraq in September 2014. Finally, a year later in September 2015 he sent jets to bomb Syria.

It is difficult to understand Hollande’s declaration that the November 2015 Paris attacks are an “act of war” by ISIS, in view of the reality that France has already been at war with ISIS for more than a year.

Note, too, that the United States was barely involved in half of those misguided efforts.

Whether or not it can match U.S. capacity, France is no longer a junior partner or even hapless “sidekick” to the United States’ mayhem. In that sense, Hollande has gone much further than Tony Blair ever did during the Iraq War episode. Blair restrained himself to just being a sidekick.

France under Hollande has turned itself into an active cyclone by pursuing a militarized foreign policy – a strategy that may prove self-defeating. Read more

Beware the aid of Chad

Al Jazeera America, “US support for Chad may destabilize the Sahel”:

Washington’s support for Déby assumes U.S. interests in the region align with Chad’s. U.S. policymakers should realize, however, that Chad has demonstrated a vested interest in promoting instability and empowering regional militias. Far from a bulwark of stability, Chad has proved a purveyor of chaos.
[…]
Chad’s domestic policies are no less problematic. The country is one of the world’s least free, according to Freedom House’s annual Freedom in the World index. Under Déby’s rule, Chad’s already dismal record for political and civil rights has continued to decline.

 
Related background: Chad: How China Created an African Power – The Globalist: How Chinese investment made Chad a vital Central African military ally of the West.

The previous regime in Chad, ejected in the 1990 coup, was also a close U.S. military ally, with success against Libya but horrible results domestically.

Chad’s regional interference in the past 15 years has included repeatedly supporting rebel groups in Sudan, Central African Republic, and elsewhere, in addition to its provision of support and troops for French and US military operations in Mali and Nigeria. Its Central African Republic intervention, which included overthrowing the government and then sending troops to “keep the peace” in the ensuing chaos, ended in disaster, as I previously recounted on this site:

[…] neighboring regional power Chad announced its intention to withdraw its forces from the 6,000 strong African Union multinational intervention force. (Most of that force will be replaced by the new UN force, rather than supplemented.) Chad’s move followed mounting accusations (which were probably true) that it was not a benevolently intervening impartial force but was rather a full-fledged party to the conflict.

Although it’s never been entirely clear just how much meddling Chad’s government was doing before the reciprocal atrocities in C.A.R. began last year, many Christian civilians on the ground had become convinced (rightly or wrongly) that Chad was taking sides and facilitating Muslim militia activities. As a result, various Christian militia groups had begun attacking Chadian peacekeepers more and more frequently, culminating in an alleged recent massacre of Christians (supposedly in self-defense) — all of which prompted their decision to depart. The UN’s newly expanded force will mostly be coming from other African nations, like the existing peacekeepers, but UN officials seem relieved to have Chad’s controversial troops out of the picture, without needing to ask them not to participate anymore.

 
The intervention in Nigeria seems to be the one most closely motivated by economic fears (BBC):

Chad has been impatient to act in order to protect its supply routes, crucial to its economy. Goods come through Cameroon’s Far North while it exports oil through a pipeline running through Nigeria’s Adamawa state.

(That state is just south of current Boko Haram territory.)
Wall Street Journal:

Rampaging through northeastern Nigeria and attacking neighboring Cameroon in January, Islamist militants squeezed paths used by herdsmen who walk one of Chad’s main exports—cattle—to market in Nigeria. Boko Haram also choked off the flow of manufactured goods into Chad’s capital, N’Djamena. Prices for everyday imports like plastic tubs have skyrocketed.

 
Nigeria has done very poorly against Boko Haram, but Chad’s deepening involvement (some of it undertaken without the permission of Nigeria’s government) should be at least as troubling to as welcomed by the international community, if not more so.

flag-of-chad

Saving Grace: Father Bernard Kinvi of Central African Republic

The story of a Catholic priest, Father Bernard Kinvi, who protected Muslim civilians in Central African Republic from extremist Christian militias during the country’s reciprocal genocide, from late 2013 into early 2014, in its ongoing conflict:

At one point, 1,500 Muslims were living under the protection of a man whose only sources of power were his faith and the black cassock with a large red cross on the chest that he wears as a member of the Camillian order.
[…]
From mid-January to April, Kinvi barely slept, terrified that if he closed his eyes the militia would fulfill their threats to murder all the Muslims in the mission. But bit-by-bit, lorry load by lorry load, the priest started to get the Muslims out of the area and over the border into Cameroon.

 
In contrast, French “peacekeepers” literally stood and watched Muslims being hacked to death in front of them by Christian extremists. Actual rescue missions, as in Rwanda in 1994, had to be staged by African peacekeepers.

Ten years from now, everyone is going to be asking why the world did nothing there. And there will be no good explanations or excuses.
central-african-republic-map

October 22, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 104

AFD-logo-470

Description: Interventions, Interference, and Invasions: Nate and Bill lead a world tour of the post-WWII history of countries entering other countries’ civil wars and uprisings, for good or ill, and what it means for the future. (We talk about Cuba, Angola, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Indonesia, Guatemala, Libya, Central African Republic, Mali, Somalia, and many others.) People: Bill, Nate. Produced: October 20th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– Kissinger’s plan to bomb Cuba and what the future of the embargo is
– CIA history: Why arming rebels has often failed and what it means for US plans in Syria now
– What does the future hold for international and unilateral military interventions in armed conflicts and crises? Is the UN still relevant?

Episode 104 (57 min)
AFD 104

Related links
Segment 1

NYT: Kissinger Drew Up Plans to Attack Cuba, Records Show
AFD: Jimmy Carter’s Election Prevented a Disastrous War in Cuba
NYT Editorial Board: End the U.S. Embargo on Cuba

Segment 2

NYT: CIA Study Says Arming Rebels Seldom Works
AFD: Gen. Dempsey Outlines Proposed Syrian Rebels Plan

Segment 3

AFD: Confusion in Libya as Egyptian jets bomb Benghazi
AFD: US suddenly surprised to find Mideast states acting unilaterally
AFD: Is the US-led Syria operation vs ISIS legal under international law?
AFD: France announces indefinite Sahel deployment
AFD: France: Back to Africa?

Subscribe

RSS Feed: Arsenal for Democracy Feedburner
iTunes Store Link: “Arsenal for Democracy by Bill Humphrey”

And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

C.A.R. capital evacuations continue

central-african-republic-mapCentral African Republic peacekeepers have safely evacuated a convoy of over a thousand Muslim civilians out of the capital to the Muslim-dominated north, following thousands of other fleeing Muslims trying to get away from the Christian counter-militias now dominating the capital. The successful convoy operation marks an improvement for an international peacekeeping mission that has been plagued with accusations of inaction and indifference toward the Muslim population specifically.

Separately, members of the country’s disbanded Muslim militia coalition attacked a Doctors Without Borders clinic, killing a couple dozen locals and three foreign aid workers.

UN finally approves 12k peacekeepers to Central African Republic

central-african-republic-mapBack in January the United Nations leadership had suggested that 10,000 more peacekeepers were needed in Central African Republican, but other mounting crises in more strategically prioritized places (Ukraine, for example) seem to have dragged out the process of authorizing them.

Today, the UN Security Council finally voted unanimously — another good sign of the total lack of importance to the major powers, since China and Russia have no countervailing interest against the dominant French there — to send 10,000 more peacekeeping troops and 1,800 police peacekeepers. Their primary focus will be to shore up the embattled capital, its internally displaced refugee population, and the transitional government. A million people (a fifth of the population) have been displaced, as roving religious militias and “self-defense” forces rove the countryside destroying villages in reciprocal attacks.

The need for fresh troops became particularly urgent as neighboring regional power Chad announced its intention to withdraw its forces from the 6,000 strong African Union multinational intervention force. (Most of that force will be replaced by the new UN force, rather than supplemented.) Chad’s move followed mounting accusations (which were probably true) that it was not a benevolently intervening impartial force but was rather a full-fledged party to the conflict.

Although it’s never been entirely clear just how much meddling Chad’s government was doing before the reciprocal atrocities in C.A.R. began last year, many Christian civilians on the ground had become convinced (rightly or wrongly) that Chad was taking sides and facilitating Muslim militia activities. As a result, various Christian militia groups had begun attacking Chadian peacekeepers more and more frequently, culminating in an alleged recent massacre of Christians (supposedly in self-defense) — all of which prompted their decision to depart. The UN’s newly expanded force will mostly be coming from other African nations, like the existing peacekeepers, but UN officials seem relieved to have Chad’s controversial troops out of the picture, without needing to ask them not to participate anymore.

Meanwhile, the better-trained and more experienced French peacekeeping troops are badly outnumbered for the task assigned, to the point that they have been accused of only protecting Christian refugees and watching without acting as Muslims have been murdered in front of them by the now dominant Christian militias (in an eerie parallel to the French force protecting retreating Hutu militias in 1994, at the end of the Rwandan genocide led by Hutu extremists). Other troops from the European Union, previously authorized at the UN, have largely not yet materialized, months later.

It’s clear a bigger force is needed in Central African Republic, and one at least as large as has just been authorized. But will it once again be too little too late?