HOW DID THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY MISS THE CRISIS IN MALIJim de Wildewww.jimdewilde.netwww.twitter.com/jimdewildeAugust 2012DRAFTAs part of a series of essays on foreign policy in a post-superpower world, I havebeen attempting to frame a global foreign policy, not as an abstraction, but as away to think about how global rule of law, global sustainable development andglobal security can be approached. New alliances require new strategies.Students in Angola will have a different perspective on the Cold War thanstudents in Dusseldorf or Denver. The new generation of global China will havea different interpretation of the partition of Arabia than historians looking at it froma London-Washington-Paris Treaty of Versailles worldview. Mauritanianstudents will look at the Westphalia state system differently than Swiss politicalscientists.This is not an argument that the world of global security issues has changedcompletely or that understanding Chinese naval strategy is no longer essentialfor foreign policy strategies. It is, however, an argument that ignoring theinfluence of new players and attitudes will not enhance the values of rule of lawand global security.Nor is this a celebration of U.S. decline as can be found in some circles ofEnglish-speaking Asia. Until there is a means for ensuring that the personalsecurity of Kurds or Tuareg or Tamils in Sri Lanka can be guaranteed by somekind of new security regime, the United States, Britain and France will continue tobe asked to play the disproportionate role that they did in the protection ofBenghazi.However, the assumptions, which have gone into foreign policy aboutAfghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Iraq, show that the way we think about the world isdramatically limited.Building a state system in Afghanistan has shown that traditional foreign policythinkers have been unable to disentangle the past assumptions and askquestions about a post-colonial post-Cold War view of the issues at stake. Theargument that in the 1980s, U.S. foreign policy backed the Islamists against the“secular modernizers” in Afghanistan allowing scarce credibility in the 1990s and2000s needs to be addressed. It is the first question asked when one has adiscussion of Afghanistan with Colombians or Nigerians.
We know that conversations between Ankara, Moscow and Tel Aviv are morerelevant to the future of Syria than Security Council resolutions. However, wecontinue to have political conversations that are predicated on transparentlyobsolete assumptions. Then pundits pontificate on the “cynicism” of democraticelectorates confronted with “insurmountable” global problems.Canadian foreign policy has always had an opportunity to give a different view.Colonial enterprises like the Boer War almost brought the disintegration ofCanada. Quebec has always identified with Algeria more than with France in itsself-image and intellectual composition.Which leads me to four themes I want to pursue this year:(1) How did “the international system” get Mali so wrong? This is important notonly because Mali is important geopolitically and culturally but also because itreveals like an MRI scan on our decision-making process what we are doing sowrong.(2) How are we ensuring resource wealth doesn’t lead to kleptocraticgovernments and what kind of regime do we need to ensure global mining is anadvanced technology industry distributing productive wealth globally and not acaricature of James Cameron’s Avatar?(3) What is the global foreign policy of the new “Second World” powers? What isIndian foreign policy towards rule of law in the Maldives and the successorregime to Assad in Syria? The international system is improvising strategies inMali as it did in Ivory Coast. The thing that is clear is that the UN is not a vehiclefor these activities and improvised solutions (Dakar-Abuja on Mali, Istanbul-Moscow-Tel Aviv on Syria) are very unstable elements.(4) How do we promote the global rule of law at every opportunity to ensure thatthe international system establishes the preconditions for global wealth-creation?This is not a question of naïve idealism. Even if the “fair” outcome will take awhile, it is imperative that the language of “fair outcomes” be part of internationalpolitics, more rather than less.HOW DID WE FAIL THE PEOPLE OF MALI IN WASHINGTON, OTTAWA,LONDON AND PARIS?In the last few months, Mali has gone from being a place known for historicaltourism and a global mining centre to being a place where terrorists andfundamentalists have created chaos and a situation that has real consequencesfor global security.
The independence of Azawad, the Tuareg homeland of northern Mali has notbeen recognized by any international agency. The weakened government ofBamako recovering from a coup of soldiers dissatisfied with corruption and lackof support for the obviously failing military effort against northerners is trying torecover its balance.I am not an expert on Mali. I leave my understanding to first-rate analysis fromAfua Hirsch of the Guardian and political scientists like Benjamin Soares atLeiden. Mali is important because it now risks becoming a centre of globalterrorism, because cultural heritages are a global trust and because any countrythat has experienced rule of law that slides into chaos is a moral challenge to theglobal community in a particular way, which is the Baltic States or the Pinochetcoup of our generation.The issues posed by the failure of the “global security community” and “thecoalition for the promotion of the global rule of law” to anticipate what happenedin Mali is, however, something that I want to talk about.Our approach to foreign policy issues is hopelessly out of date. At one level, thisis a bromide, generals fighting the last war. We had a paradigm based on thewar-by-error of World War I, on the ColdWar, or Vietnam, on 9/11. Butthisseems to be a more serious problem of failed analysis (“conceptualframeworks” or “paradigms” or “memes”) and one with consequences wellbeyond the wonderful culture and democratic values of Mali.The sudden collapse of Mali came from three perfect storm producingphenomena:(1) The tragedy of success, a democratic regimethat received too much donorassistance before the capacity to turn capital into productive and transparentinvestment existed;(2) The unaddressed issues of colonial boundaries (the curse of the Durand lineas I have called it in a previous lecture) which continues to make the world moredangerous as Ogaden, Afghanistan, Iraqi, Syrian boundaries create challengesof global consequences in the modern age;(3) The inability of our foreign policy theories to understand migration as aninternational problem, as when thousands of armed militia left Libya to go southand west through the Sahara.Mali is one of many future crises that come from this outdated approach tointernational politics. Here are some new assumptions that one might hopebecame an Obama Doctrine in a second term:
1. Global migration has changed the nature of state security. Thousands of immigrants create a security problem and are a global concern. When there is a displacement of people as predictably took place after the Libyan war. Global migration requires a new approach to the issues of economic migrants, refugees and international politics. 2. The aid trap described by Dambisa Moyo is real. The task of foreign assistance is to ensure that local capital markets allocate capital to productive entrepreneurs. Initiatives like VC4Africa are critical for the next generation of democratic activists so that situations like the one that led to the Malian coup and subsequent regional destabilization are addressed. Resource revenues should be turned into SWFs like Abu Dhabi or into a pension system like Norway. By the end of the decade, all mining and extractive industry payments should be directly to such investment instruments. 3. Most importantly and most difficult, the residual effects of the colonial boundaries drawn on maps in Berlin, Amsterdam, Paris and London has to be addressed. In Brazil and Canada, we are exploring ways to provide shared jurisdiction over aboriginal lands to ensure that prosperity is managed by the stakeholders. In places like the Tuareg population of Mali, where the Mauritania-Mali border has no economic significance, new institutions have to be designed. As many of these areas (the Ogaden, for example) are rich, new institutions for managing the wealth that comes from extractive industries have to be designed.This will not happen overnight. But the language of traditional internationalrelations has to change for it to ever happen. There will be endless threats toglobal security unless the international system creates geographically coherentstates where democratic politicians can build social trust. Political innovators willalso have to design new mechanisms for cooperation between states that allowus to manage interdependence.