Peter Tinti @ The Devils Without Details

Mr. Tinti has written an erudite piece for that not only goes out of its way to describe the very complicated dynamics that make up the political violence happening in northern Mali, but takes a shot at the many analysts (myself included) that are speaking “out of turn” when it comes to Mali. 

Mali is now viewed largely through the lens of counter-terrorism and to date few policy proposals account for the complex and interrelated local structures that will shape the security outcomes in northern Mali. This is a problem. Any intervention not delicately calibrated to local socio-political dynamics risks exacerbating the crisis, undermining the very goals policymakers aim to achieve.

Linking external intervention to local realities in Mali will be no small undertaking. As Islamist groups consolidate control in the north, there is a growing misconception that the situation may have finished shifting, with clear-cut interests and alliances beginning to take shape. But reports on the ground suggest otherwise. Political posturing in northern Mali is as volatile and fluid as ever, with a panoply of actors – internal and external – acting on behalf of a mix of ideological affiliations, economic interests, pre-existing grievances, ethnic identities, tribal networks and even personal animosities.


His observations with regard to the many analysts of the Malian situation are sound. In fact, they hit as close to home as this blog, whose author knows about as much about Mali as any beltway bandit. 

Tinti was perhaps too polite in his piece, saying that there were obvious dangers to oversimplifying the Malian conflict, while avoiding the very disturbing fact that Counter Terrorism Analysis is a big budget industry. I am absolutely positive that he is aware of the problems Greenwald pointed out in his last column at Salon, and it lurks around his piece like an elephant (or a donkey, as the case may be) in the very same room. 

The shoddy terrorism analysis that Tinti criticizes should not be thought of as analysis in good faith. A good portion of the analysts calling for war in Mali because of ill informed views are not doing so out of professionalism and lack thereof, but out of a desire to see Western intervention in the country. There is much at stake here, such as, for instance, the minerals sitting pretty in Northern Mali. There is the ever present military industrial complex, which needs to replace any toys detonated on Malian land. And, if you are not conspiracy minded, there is always the possibility that terrorism could strike out hard from Mali, making those that did not see the clear threat the losers.

Either way, this is an excellent article for anyone interested in the Malian crisis.


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