The much-used analogy for France’s troubles in the Sahel—the U.S. failure in Afghanistan—poorly expresses the complexity of Paris’ problematic relations in West Africa. And the inability to come up with a mental model that more adequately describes what is going on there makes fixing things all but impossible.
What would it take to transform the way countries in the Middle East are governed? That question has taken on added urgency over the past year, in which competing theories of power and change have been on display. The region’s reformers and despots are still engaged in a struggle over the central purpose of government.