Bridges from Bamako

Since the French military intervention in Mali, known as Operation Serval, began last week, the internet has been buzzing with talk about its motives. Is France really only trying to contain a terrorist threat, as it claims? Or do major world powers have other, more sinister interests at stake? At its root, what is the conflict in Mali about?

This discourse, generated largely by journalists, analysts and activists unfamiliar with Mali, has been far too speculative for my tastes. Let’s consider what we do and don’t know about the causes and effects of international interest in Mali.

1. Mineral rights

Many sources say that the main reason France, and Western countries more broadly, are getting involved in Mali is that these major world powers covet the country’s mineral resources. The website globalresearch.ca expresses this view bluntly: “the goal of this new war is no other than stripping yet another…

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