Which comes first, the dubious election to select a government, or a foreign military invasion to prop that government up?
If you’re talking Mali, the Western world is pretty clear the former has to come first, as they are openly conditioning the invasion that Malian officials have been seeking on them holding an election first.
How an election is even theoretically held in a nation where more than half of the territory is out of the regime’s control is a tricky matter. Residents of Azawad, the northern half of the country which has been taken over by Ansar Dine, are expressing concern that holding an election without them, then having ECOWAS and whatever NATO nations that might get involved occupy Azawad to impose the southern government on them isn’t a sign of “unity.”
The UN is debating the ECOWAS plan for an invasion of Azawad, and the Obama Administration is said to be in talks with Mauritania on the possibility of insinuating itself into the war in some role, though exactly what form US involvement will take is still unclear.
Mali lost control of Azawad to Tuareg secessionists earlier this year, and the military staged a coup d’etat in the wake of the defeat. Since then the junta has appointed an “interim” civilian government, but the leader of the government, President Dioncounda Traore, is unpopular and has already been hospitalized once during his term after protesters marched into his office and beat him unconscious.