France's "Mission Accomplished"

Saddam Hussein's forces fell like a house of cards when American forces invaded in 2003. Saddam's Soviet-era equipment was no match for the world's most powerful military force and its 21st century technological ruthlessness. However, it was the great military strategist Dick Cheney who so wisely observed in 1994 that (transcript):

The man was a military prophet, it's like he could see 20 years into the future. Cheney knew that a conventional military attack would  be quickly successful, but the ensuing guerrilla war would embroil the US in the same way that Vietnam did. And, let's not forget that Vietnam was French Indochina, a post-colonial problem that the US military-industrial complex was more than willing to get embroiled in due to the potential for mass profit and untold weapons test on the field.

The US has already set into motion the construction of a drone base in Niger, to make operations in North Africa more tenable. The Pentagon strategists can see what is obvious: the Islamist forces withdrew strategically to the more inhospitable north of Mali, where they are well-entrenched and have more base of support. The French know that too, and that is why they are reluctant to proceed. What Hollande has done is: provide training to the rebels, and give them time to analyze and prepare for the second wave of attack.

Nonetheless, president Hollande has taken one of the most expensive photo-ops for a European head of state in recent memory. He has traveled to a warzone, at grave taxpayer expense, to be photographed as the victorious savior of a jubilant people.

Some years down the line, we will look back at president Hollande smiling as he walked amidst the crowds in Mali, and remember Bush's arrival on the USS Lincoln by jet, and cheering to a jubilant crowd as the words "Mission Accomplished" were splashed behind him. Don't expect that French forces will actually be able to withdraw soon; the quagmire has just begun.