I’m often at a loss making small talk because I have little interest in sports (though I will watch the Super Bowl, if only to see the Jersey team lose). But why bother with the substitute for war when there’s so much of the real thing? Other than in Afghanistan (whose dust we should shake off our boots and leave the feuding goatherds to their own devices), it’s also a spectator sport for us — like football or hockey, but for keeps.
Stratfor recently had an item (subscription-only, I think) about a new team, new to me anyway, the “National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad.” Admittedly, it sounds like something from Life of Brian. (“Surely we should be united against the common enemy.” “The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad!!!” “No. No. The Romans!” “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.”) They’re Tuareg tribesmen who’d been in Qaddafi’s army and, following his overdue demise, returned to Mali and, in Stratfor’s words, “began a military campaign to free three northern Mali regions from Bamako’s control.” This is fascinating stuff, and the progress of their “military campaign” is way more interesting and suspenseful than whether the Patriots make a third-down conversion.
The policy point is this: I’m sure our State Department follows this conflict, and the many similar conflicts around the globe, very closely. But we need to make sure this remains a spectator sport for us — I don’t want our soldiers even to know where Azawad is, let alone that there’s a national movement for its liberation. I’m afraid too many of our foreign-policy elites aren’t satisfied with munching popcorn and watching what happens in the three northern regions of Mali — they want to be on the field, and that’s when we get in trouble, sticking our nose in places that, as entertaining as they might be, are not tied to any vital interest of the United States.