Hollande in Mali

For the moment, the French are standing, overwhelmingly, behind President François Hollande's decision to intervene in Mali. But this support may be fragile, and could collapse if something goes wrong on the ground – or, worse, in France.

PARIS – While hundreds of thousands demonstrated in Paris against the right of homosexual couples to marry and adopt children, French troops were arriving in Mali to stop a coalition of Islamist and rebel forces from taking control of its capital, Bamako, and creating in the Sahel a sanctuary for terrorists.

These are trying times for French President François Hollande. Besieged economically at home, where his popularity is at its lowest since his election last year, can he regain credibility, if not support, as supreme commander of French forces?

Once upon a time, “I intervene, therefore I am” might as well have been a French motto, particularly in Africa. But, while French national identity is intimately bound up with France’s international standing – how it is perceived in the world – enthusiasm for intervention has receded. The benefits have become more dubious, while the costs and risks have grown increasingly evident.

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