October 30th, 2012
11:05 AM ET

The next war you'll probably hear about

By Global Public Square

For more “What in the World,” watch "Fareed Zakaria GPS" on Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET

In the final presidential debate – the one on foreign policy – it was interesting to note the countries that got a mention. Iran was cited 47 times, of course, Israel 34 times, and China 32 times. It was also telling there was only one mention each of Europe and Africa, and none at all of India.

But I was struck by the amount of play one small country got, one that usually doesn't register on Washington's foreign policy radar. Landlocked Mali, with a population of about 15 million, and a GDP 1 percent that of Mexico's.

Why Mali? Here's the story briefly.

Radical Islamist groups have taken control of as much as two-thirds of Mali's territory this year, including the historic city of Timbuktu. Among these groups is "al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb," said to have been involved in last month's attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Together, these radical outfits have tormented Mali. They've destroyed historic shrines, imposed a draconian version of Sharia law, and gone as far as stoning and beating people who come in their way.

More from CNN: Is Mali al Qaeda's new breeding ground?

Now, Mali was once considered one of the few stable democracies in Africa, and Mali's capital, Bamako, would normally have been able to counteract these insurgents. But the government tripped up this year. A coup took place in March. In the aftermath, soldiers deserted the army; there are reports many even sold their equipment for money. So Mali is now essentially defenseless. Last month, the interim president called on the U.N. Security Council to help. And so it seems increasingly likely there will be some kind of military intervention. Already, a regional group called ECOWAS – the Economic Community of West Africa States – is pooling together a small army.

France is leading the calls for action. It has submitted a proposal to the U.N. for Malian soldiers to be trained by the European Union. Those soldiers will then join a few thousand ECOWAS troops to retake northern Mali. Remember, Mali was a French colony until 1960 – and France continues to have trade interests in the region.

What about Washington's role? Haven't our leaders promised to go after al Qaeda wherever it takes us? Yes – but that doesn't always mean we need to have boots on the ground. Al Qaeda and its affiliated terror groups keep popping up in different parts of the world. When we suppress them in one region, they crop up elsewhere. It's a tremendous undertaking to keep following them. That's why it's heartening to see local and regional powers take up the fight. In Somalia, for example, Ethiopia and Kenya have been instrumental in battling the al Qaeda-linked Shabab group. Other countries, like Yemen, have welcomed surgical U.S. strikes – even drone strikes – without a presence of troops.

With or without the United States, there is a real prospect that the next war you will hear about – perhaps next year – will be fought not in Iran, but in the impoverished country of Mali. You heard it here first.


soundoff (397 Responses)
  1. DuluthMN

    I don't see why we have to leap at every war that comes along. Let's see other Western nations do a little leaping of their own if they're so concerned.

    October 31, 2012 at 10:17 am | Reply
  2. msampstexas

    Americans aren't interested in War? I don't see how that's possible since we have been at war for a total of 214 years out of the 235 years the country has existed. War is big business and tax paying American's foot the bill for every bit of it.

    October 31, 2012 at 11:42 am | Reply
    • Smedley Butler

      War is a racket.

      October 31, 2012 at 12:17 pm | Reply
  3. mercenary76

    no dog in that fight , best to sit that one out .

    October 31, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Reply
  4. Mitt putting Boots on the Ground on Day 1

    Ignore the hard reality if it makes it easier for you to sleep, but Mali is on its way to becoming a bonafide terrorist training ground. However, Mali won't be the first place that President Romney sends your son or daughter. That will be Iran...

    October 31, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  5. Armelito

    Are you kidding me? Is this supposed to be journalism? Jason Miks…Are you really calling a war and proud of it? “You heard it here first”. And that’s exactly why I can’t stand CNN. By the way…the people of Mali were just fine until NATO decided to cover Sarkozy’s butt by taking out Kaddafi. This whole thing is directly linked to the lack of foresight from the West. And for all of you who are saying Sorry Mali, we can’t help you? You should be ashame and not so pretentious. Learn the facts. This is not a new story. And Miks…I didn’t hear it on CNN first.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Reply
  6. krm1007 ©™

    'CAN ANY OTHER COUNTRY DO SO? ONLY PAKISTAN.'

    WE SALUTE YOU, PAKISTAN......The Americans acknowledge the innumerable sacrifices made by Pakistanis in this ongoing war. The Americans appreciate the bullets taken on the chest by the Pakistanis in fighting the enemy. The Americans appreciate the ultimate sacrifices made by Pakistanis in sacrificing their lives while trying to make America and the world safe.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
    • Hannibal7

      BUNK. They shelter the enemy.

      October 31, 2012 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  7. krm1007 ©™

    PAKISTAN !!!!

    THANK YOU …. THANK YOU…. THANK YOU!!!!
    FOR MAKING USA SAFE FOR MAKING THE WORLD SAFE>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Since Sep 11, 2001, over 200,000 Pakistani civilians, armed forces personnel have either sacrificed their lives or wounded; more than 3.5 million have been displaced while the country has lost over
    US $ 1 Trillion due to terrorism.

    Despite sacrifices, Pakistan was still engaged in 'the war for world peace”.

    No other country has even come close to selflessly sacrificing so much.

    Pakistan, no one can ever repay you enough for your contributions.
    You deserve a permanent seat in the UN Security Council for your contributions to world peace and emergence of a new world order. We welcome your rise as the new regional military power. God Speed.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:30 pm | Reply
  8. Matthew

    Americans are such cowards today. You cry about a war were only 3000 Americans died in it. Let me put this to you straight, Iraq and Afghanistan were hardly wars. More Americans died in the occupation of Germany after WW2. Face it, when you go to war, people die, usually in the thousands. Americans are stupid to not realize that. The world is figuring out that all you have to do to beat American is let them into your country and fight the guerilla war crap until the US gives up. Other nations didn't back down when they got punch. Rome lost 10% of its population in the second war against Hannibal but the Romans didn't cry about it our talk about surrendering, they got angry and sent more troops and fought even harder until they eventually won!

    US today is no different then 1939-1940 France.

    October 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Reply
    • dandelatorre

      You make no mention of our own corrupt oppressive government and the Elite few who financially support them. Do you not feel the Citizens of America are being systematically used to benefit the few? And if you do, wouldn't you also agree that Americans should defend themselves at all cost from tyranny even if it is on their own soil?

      November 4, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Reply
  9. Romenylies

    Embassy attacked under Bush

    22 January 2002 Calcutta, India Harkat-ul-Jihad al-Islami gunmen attack Consulate 5
    14 June 2002 Karachi, Pakistan al-Qaeda truck bomb detonates outside Consulate (more details) 12
    12 October 2002 Denpasar, Indonesia Consular Office bombed by Jemaah Islamiyah as part of the Bali bombings none
    28 February 2003 Islamabad, Pakistan Unknown gunmen attack Embassy 2
    30 June 2004 Tashkent, Uzbekistan Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan suicide bomber attacks Embassy 2
    6 December 2004 Jeddah, Saudi Arabia al-Qaeda gunmen raid diplomatic compound 9
    2 March 2006 Karachi, Pakistan Car bomb explodes outside Consulate 2
    12 September 2006 Demascuc, Syria Gunmen raid US Embassy 4
    12 January 2007 Athens, Greece RPG Fired at Embassy by Revolutionary Struggle

    October 31, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply
  10. Romneylies

    Under Bush, there were violent attacks on American embassies in Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, India and Turkey. A U.S. diplomat was assassinated in Sudan. Another was murdered in Pakistan.

    Republicans are such liars and hypocrits

    October 31, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Reply
  11. SAWolf

    People, especially 3rd worlders, complain that America meddles in the affairs of other nations. Well, you taught us to do so. Last century we wanted NOTHING to do with conflicts overseas, not once but twice. We claimed no part in these conflicts and yet we attacked both in WW I, and WW II pulling us into the madness of the rest of you. Now we will not wait to be attacked and will employ our power to protect our interests. Don't like it, be thankful that our politicians believe in the folly of limited war. I'd sublimate you.

    October 31, 2012 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  12. deniz boro

    If Americans have the values and principles that made America, they will vote for Obs... They will go and use their votes.

    November 1, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  13. dandelatorre

    Notice the assumption of war. It is a critical part of the profiteering cycle for Military Industrial Complex's, privately owned Banking cartels, Corporate profiteers, and corrupt governments. The cycle of the Elite few benefiting at the expense of the many can only be addressed iif the people are able to identify these true Global enemies, and unite in determined sacrifice.
    For the oppressed Americans, 'Where are the descendents of your Forefathers?'.

    November 4, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Reply
  14. deniz boro

    What can I say on the lining. Cheers.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Reply
  15. deniz boro

    Sorry dandelatorr I got into this discussion run just because of the word given to a group of Turkish people who wanted to walk to the sepulcture of a man named Atatürk. The word given to these people was and still is "ELITTE".I asked for an explanation and a dictionary version of "ELITTE"" ı could not get it. It turned out to be a word used or something which is a word used for any person who is not "than politically wanted". Anybody who can think; who can ask; who can oppose.
    Who are not part of the flock. The question is that even Christ went out of the flock and did an INNOVATION.

    November 5, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      Now that the Election is over and a respectfull entellectual exchange of knowledge will not be misdirected by other factors, can we take up this issue again? Please.
      I believe there are several causes for a new war: 1) Water; 2) Agriculturaly favorable land; 3) Safe areas to live
      Several new means on the war: 1) Media 2) Cyber interferance
      Several short term (bluff) problems: 1) Speculations on food; 2) Speculations on weather 3) Speculations on the Armegeddon (a very successfull subcect in Islamic literature)
      I should also suggest a solution on short term problem. Well please do disclose the scientific findings; the grain/food stocks and weather predictions for the coming 2 years. They are already public in many web-sites anyway.

      November 7, 2012 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  16. kc

    We need to consider that on the one hand we are not the worlds police force,while on the other ,stopping extremists early on is critical. Mali didn't deserve islamist oppression and we should not ignore them. It is better to work at this early on ,and not leave them forgotten . If we pick our battles more wisely we will have more power and funds were they are needed.

    November 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm | Reply
    • deniz boro

      You are struck on details and fail to take a macro view.If you do this you willl surely be lost in the individual news that you will receive, as a normal person. Take a macro and micro view. That must be second nature to you now. That is your career. You may cry for indiidual cases thereafter.

      November 7, 2012 at 9:47 pm | Reply
  17. deniz boro

    KC that is regional. I realy want to start a new and discuss everything on equal grouds on a global base. Can we now do it. So that everyone from all over the world can find a common equal platform? That is what I need actually.

    November 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  18. deniz boro

    .

    November 7, 2012 at 9:52 pm | Reply
  19. dou44

    It's funny reading the Right's posts in late Oct. about the coming US election of Romney and Obama going down in defeat. Republican math.

    November 15, 2012 at 10:52 pm | Reply
  20. Anonymous American

    "Iran was mentioned 47 times..." *picture of Iraq comes on screen*

    CNN, you're not exactly helping to change the belief that Americans aren't knowledgeable about the rest of the world! Please try to be accurate in the future. Seeing that was embarrassing.

    November 17, 2012 at 6:19 pm | Reply
  21. Cbec32

    I really enjoy reading these comments, especially when people think they know what is going on in the world based off what the media tells them. No one will ever know the true motives for any war. All we will ever know is the destruction and bloodshed that is caused by these wars.

    November 25, 2012 at 1:02 am | Reply
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