Qaddafi’s fall initiated an unanticipated chain reaction and Mali’s U.S.-trained army was overwhelmed by it. This campaign is far from over. And it validates another lesson (the first being the risk of unintended consequences): It’s easy to start military operations, but as the great theorist of war Karl von Clausewitz warned, what’s predictable about war is its unpredictability. Clausewitz called this problem “friction.” Friction can shred even the best-laid plans. And it could do so in Mali.
Rajan Menon is the Anne and Bernard Spitzer Professor of Political Science at the City College of New York/City University of New York, nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council and the author, most recently, of The End of Alliances.