Tuaregs and Arabs in Northern Mali

The recent press coverage of the insurrection in Northern Mali that I have seen has only touched lightly on the fact that our adversaries consist of a coalition of Islamic Arabs and Tuaregs. The implication is, they are a team, they are the enemy. I have yet to see any informed comment on the deep ethnic, linguistic, and cultural gap that separates the two groups. Tuaregs, of course, are Berbers, with their own language and customs. They have been there forever, while the Arabs are immigrants, having arrived only about a millennium and a half ago. (Any good Zionist will tell you that’s hardly enough residency to establish tenure, at least for Arabs).

Perhaps Tuaregs and Arabs have coexisted all these years in northern Mali in harmony. If so, maybe there is some hope for the peaceful coexistence of the rest of humanity. But don’t bet the farm on it. Some of these Arabs are real immigrants, fresh in from Libya. With their fancy new weapons and combat experience, it seems likely they are lording it over their country cousins, and it is just possible their attitude toward strict enforcement of Sharia law is not going down too well.

The obvious policy for central authority, including the US, is to dangle a bag of gold under the noses of selected Tuareg leaders, and pay them off to change sides, or at least stop helping the opposition. The Tuareg leaders will haggle, that’s part of the game people have been playing between core centers and peripheral tribes ever since our ancestors became civilized enough to have centers and peripheries. But it will work in the end. We got smart enough to play that game in Iraq when we bribed the Sunni tribes in Anbar, which is the real reason the much touted “surge” in our troop placements worked. Why not now? We don’t even have to do the dirty work ourselves; the French, who have more experience in these matters, are out front here, we just have to sweeten the kitty a bit.
We Americans have gotten spoiled; our old Yankee trading acumen has been replaced by the ‘my way or the highway’ stance of the imperialist. Now that the rest of the world is growing up, and we aren’t as flush as we used to be, it’s time to rediscover some of the habits of our American forebears.
Carl Coon 1/17/13
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One Response to Tuaregs and Arabs in Northern Mali

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