The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Yves Faguy

Intervention in Mali: a legal concern?

January 15 2013 15 January 2013

So Canada has decided to provide logistical support to France’s military intervention in Mali (false starts notwithstanding), and play host to talks in Ottawa. All of this a week after Harper ruled out sending troops to the country – an announcement that followed recent statements made by Robert Fowler (interviewed in the above video in August at the Canadian legal Conference in Vancouver) criticizing the Harper government for saying that it had not been asked to contribute to the international military mission to Mali. At least one paper admits to being confused.

Part of the reason might have something to do with a whole lotta disagreement (between France and the U.S.) over which strategy to pursue: a frontal attack on the country or a quieter campaign against jihadi groups – like the one tried in Somalia maybe?

Perhaps most telling, the U.S. is now citing legal concerns in delaying decisions about supporting France's military campaign in Mali. The main obstacle, it seems, is that direct military aid to Mali is forbidden under U.S. law because the current government seized power in a military coup. But more pertinent could be the fact that Obama's recently named national security team is, by all accounts more favourable to testing the light footprint strategy in military matters. 

But Daveed Gartenstein-Ross worries in a recent G&M piece, with the U.S. primarily in mind, that supporters of a light footprint strategy in Mali ought to be more careful when talking up the merits of the quiet campaign against jihadi groups in Somalia as the successful model of intervention that should be followed:


It is unclear precisely what the administration and commentators have in mind when they speak about drawing lessons from Somalia, though a few threads of thought are clear. One principle is that there should be no Western “boots on the ground” – although drones, special forces, and the ubiquitous “military trainers” may play a role. Other principles include local forces taking the lead in combat operations, and working multilaterally with other countries. The aforementioned UN Security Council resolution on Mali laid the groundwork for multilateral efforts there. But the $64,000 question is how well will things turn out in Somalia? While al-Shabaab has experienced legitimately large setbacks, there are reasons for concern that the Somalia model is being oversold.
 

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