Small Wars Create Big Problems for U.K.’s Cameron, France’s Hollande

Small Wars Create Big Problems for U.K.’s Cameron, France’s Hollande
British Prime Minister David Cameron walks by French President Francois Hollande during a round table meeting at an EU summit in Brussels, March 19, 2015 (AP photo by Geert Vanden Wijngaert).

Would you rather follow David Cameron or Francois Hollande into battle? The British prime minister and the French president have both had to navigate a steady stream of small wars, and both face criticism for their responses. Cameron was an early advocate for the international intervention in Libya in 2011, but stands accused of mishandling its chaotic aftermath. Hollande won praise for sending troops to stem the conflicts in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR) in 2013, but France has struggled to extract itself from either of its turbulent former colonies.

The two leaders’ decisions have been under particular scrutiny in recent weeks. In the run-up to this week’s British elections, the opposition has highlighted the Libyan mess. Labour leader Ed Miliband has faulted Cameron for a “failure of post-conflict planning,” saying he “was wrong to assume that Libya was a country whose institutions could simply be left to evolve and transform themselves.”

If Cameron stands accused of strategic indolence, his French counterpart is paying the price for his activism. Last week, Hollande was stung by reports that French troops sexually abused children in CAR in 2014. He promised “no mercy,” but there are suspicions of a cover-up. There is also alarm over a surge of violence in the north of Mali, where rebel groups supposedly suppressed by French forces remain active.

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