I recently found this article written by anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse who lived and worked in Bamako for five years as a Fulbright scholar.  Bruce hits it on the head with his point by point analysis of Western intervention in Mali.  The reality is that there really is no strategic value of Mali to the United States and Europe.  The only relevance that the country has to Western powers is in the context of post-war consolidations of power in the aftermath of the Gaddafi regime.  The Sahel could potentially become a belt of terrorism stretching across Africa where nation states are weak and terrorists can live in relative safety, just as both Gaddafi and the late Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens suspected might happen. -Jack

Behind Mali’s conflict: myths, realities & unknowns

Since the French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval, began last week, the internet has been buzzing with talk about its motives. Is France really only trying to contain a terrorist threat, as it claims? Or do major world powers have other, more sinister interests at stake? At its root, what is the conflict in Mali about?

This discourse, generated largely by journalists, analysts and activists unfamiliar with Mali, has been far too speculative for my tastes. Let’s consider what we do and don’t know about the causes and effects of international interest in Mali.

1. Mineral rights