Years ago, one of my teachers frequently criticized our papers and presentations by noting, "There's a difference between reasons that sound good and good, sound reasons." That's how I feel about the growing conflict in Mali.
Yes, Islamic jihadists pose threats to local governments in Africa. Yes, some of them have some affinities to al Qaeda organizations that would like to threaten America. Yes, it's good that the UN Security Council has authorized an African-led military force to defend Mali. Yes, it's encouraging that, pending the organization of that force, the French are willing to take military actions to try to counter the rebels.
But no, the United States should not be jumping into the fray. The French want logistical help, and maybe more. But their military operations so far look ill-planned and ineffective -- more for show than for decisive results. They seem to be repeating the errors the United States learned so painfully in Somalia and elsewhere in the 1990s. "Surgical strikes" are hardy ever effective. We shouldn't get involved militarily without a credible plan for success and an exit strategy for success or failure. Right now, there seems to be a debate in the US government over what to do. I hope those urging caution prevail until and unless the French and the Africans have good, sound reasons and a good, sound plan.