The lesson from the successful Libya operation in 2011 was that America doesn’t have to be at the center of every international military intervention.
In Mali, that lesson is bearing fruit. France is leading the drive to stop al-Qaida, Islamic extremists and Tuareg insurgents from seizing control of that North African country.
Fearing its former colony’s imminent fall, French jets and helicopters struck al-Qaida leaders and bases in Mali, killing the group’s chief even before the U.N. approved the mission.
In addition to aircraft, Paris has committed 2,700 troops, plus armored vehicles, to the effort, which also includes 3,000 African soldiers and airlift and intelligence support from European allies and America.
As in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines and elsewhere, this fight continues the international battle against al-Qaida, which remains committed, resilient and dangerous, despite years of war.
French President Francois Hollande has warned the Mali operation will be long and difficult — as it is with any insurgency.
Careful deliberation is always required before committing military forces to action, but the blood and treasure spent in Afghanistan will have been in vain if al-Qaida reconstitutes itself in a new safe haven.
France, with deep ties to Mali, is a logical leader for this mission. But it cannot win this war alone, and must not be allowed to fail.
France must have the full support of its allies in this latest chapter of the long war against a global menace.