The French military intervention in Mali symbolically marks a new level in the military dimension of decomposition. A new global war has begun.
In 2010, during the first wave of triumphalist messages about “the end of Al Qaeda,” we announced the concept of the “Islamist corridor,” the idea of a growing conflict strip, with attempts to control territory from Mauritania to Yemen led by local Al Qaeda networks. Mali was a central link in that chain. They called us crazy. The death of Bin Laden, which, to us, would only accelerate the process of the change of scenery, was greeted with an electorally motivated triumphalism in the US, and repeated ad nauseum, cynically or hypocritically, by state analysts and echoed uncritically by the “major media.” But strategic reality is stubborn: AQMI was much more than a ghost. Defeated in the North (Morocco and Algeria), it concentrated more and more on “the corridor,” reinforced by Ghadaffi’s former arsenals and fighters.
The proclamation of the Tuareg republic of Azawad, and above all, AQMI’s consolidation and change in scale in a strategic position within Western Africa, the “deep southern flank” of Western Europe, have led the French government into an escalating war.
Hollande, strongly pressured by intelligence services, has had to overcome the recent fiasco of a “Black Hawk down” in Somalia and, above all, a new staging of the strategic break with Germany.
But the worst is yet to come. What begins with a military escalation of France’s own, today, will eventually end with the region in the hands of private military businesses and warlords, following the US model. Decomposition is characterized by fragile alliances, and if the Tuareg, who were recently allies of AQMI, offer their help to the French army, tomorrow, some of them might break away into local feifdoms that happen to be tempting to those occupying them.
Meanwhile, in the US…
That is the lesson of Iraq and Afghanistan. The worst part is that, while media noise points towards the inability of the US government to find and consense on a military direction, the model appears to have been integrated into the strategic perspective of these new times: rethinking defense “federally,” including agents of all kinds and sizes, united by weak links. Many years ago, around 2005, we predicted this and labeled it the return of Renaissance negotiation technologies and of privateer wars.
And in Cyberia…
Because, as John Robb rightly points out, this new framework, full of skirmishes, dirty wars, and drones, on both a large and small scale, corresponds to a new arms race… in which everyone can play, from India to Iran, and including the classic para-states of the Middle East and new kinds of transnational organizations. Pure swarming at all levels of the conflict.
Meanwhile, a permanent cyberwar appears to have broken out as a new form of “dirty diplomacy” between States: Iran was behind the attacks on US banks, Eastern and Central European interests assaulted systematically, Trojan horses in Sarkozy’s office…
The military dimension of decomposition has reached a new level. As was predictable, it is accelerating. Budget cuts in the central States, which push them into strategies based on dubious alliances on the ground, or even to abandon zones of influence that are “not directly strategic,” can only strengthen the new agents.
We will now see new scenarios emerge on all continents, and new names. We will also see new attractors of order in some regions. And, definitively, new attempts (like the French in Mali) at “decisive actions” which, in this context, will only serve to further feed the plethora of monsters who are still in their cradles today. The real alternative is being cooked up in other places and in another kind of structures. But for the moment, we can only declare that The Great War of Decomposition has already begun.