A typically charming Twitter exchange:
You see, the requests of status quo governments matter, when they are fighting a civil war against an Islamic insurgency-- unless those status quo governments happen to be those of Syria or Libyan. Then, all that matters is freedooooooooooooooooooooooom.
This Malian-Libyan dichotomy is like something cooked up in a lab to demonstrate the pure hypocrisy and utter lack of consistency among the liberal interventionist worldview. The Libyan and Syrian oppositions both have plainly Islamic characters, and if you're under the impression that the current Malian government is some beacon of Western values in the Saharan world... you should probably reconsider. Not that any of the reconsideration would get you to the truth, exactly; I'm sure your average Malian can't possibly possess the knowledge necessary to really understand the complex and shifting factions, motives, and dynamics of a fluid conflict in their own country. But I'm sure it's possible for Western "policy analysts" who don't speak the language and have never lived in the country to understand what's happening and know what will happen next-- like they did with Iraq, or with reinstalling the Shah, or supporting the Suharto government, or arming the Mujahadeen. They always know everything.
So why are we duty-bound to intervene on behalf of the Malian government and also duty-bound to intervene on the behalf of the Syrian opposition, just like we were duty-bound to intervene on the behalf of the Libyan opposition? The same reason we do anything in foreign policy: the influence of opportunistic ideologues, war profiteers and resource extractors, manipulable idealists, and career militarists, mixing together into a poisonous brew. So we'll contribute to the breaking of Mali like we helped to break Libya, and once it's broken we'll be responsible for nothing, and then Mali's neighbors will be left to deal with the consequences of the brokenness, just as Mali is dealing with the consequences of a broken Libya now. But those are the wages of a child's vision of goodies and baddies, applied without consistency or self-criticism through the deployment of ordnance.
But, you know, Greenwald and Friedersdorf are shrill, and they don't meet at the press club for cocktails or tell funny jokes about Game of Thrones on their Twitter feeds, so feel free to ignore them.