03/02/2013 02:49 pm ET Updated May 02, 2013

Mali: A Crisis We Can't Ignore

When first hearing about the recent international crisis in Mali, most people will ask, "Where's Mali?" Then they will follow that question up with, "How do you spell that? M-O-L-L-Y? M-A-L-Y? M-O-L-I?" As you can see, most people don't know too much about the African nation of Mali. However, in recent weeks, Mali has become the center of a governmental collapse, a terrorist takeover, and a French intervention, making it incredibly important to the international community.

Mali is located in Western Africa and is as about the size of California and Texas together. This former French colony gained its independence in 1960 after about 50 years of French rule. Like many former colonies, Mali was left with a poor infrastructure and no effective government left to run the country. Violence and several coups followed Mali's independence, ending dramatically with a democratic revolution in 1991. Mali, it appeared, had finally become a stable, democratic African country... or so you might think (DUN DUN DUUUUN).

Instability in Mali first became visible in January of last year when disgruntled Tuaregs (an ethnic African group pronounced TOR-igs) began rebelling in Northern Mali. These Tuaregs were heavily armed with an influx of guns during the Libyan revolution. Suddenly, in March, the entire government practically collapsed. The Malian army seized power in a coup d'etat, turning the government into a military junta. The Tuareg nationalists, and an African al Qaeda branch called the al Qaeda of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) took advantage of the power swap going on in Mali and seized two-thirds of the country. The northern half of Mali is now completely under AQIM control, and has been put under Sharia law. Islamic terrorism, forcible amputations, honor killings, electricity blackouts, and drought have now turned the region into a terrorist haven and a hotbed of violence and poverty.

The horrible humanitarian crisis going on in Mali had to be dealt with. The former imperial power in Mali, France, finally decided enough was enough and intervened several weeks ago. France is attempting to clear out the radical Islamic presence in Northern Mali and stop the refugee crisis erupting in Western Africa. Although France has said it will be pulling out troops by spring, many believe that the intervention might be drawn out over the summer. To speed up the intervention, France is asking the United States for aid with the intervention, and the U.S. must decide if it is going to get involved in another far-away war. Several American hostages were taken by these Islamic terrorists in Algeria a couple of weeks ago, so the U.S. does have a stake in a Mali intervention. Besides the fact that Mali actually used to be a democracy, the U.S. doesn't want more hostages or instability in Mali.

You may wonder why you should care about a country most can't even spell. Well, Mali's Islamic terrorists may very well threaten other African countries such as Morocco, Egypt and Tunisia. If you plan on visiting Casablanca, Cairo, or the set of Star Wars, you better hope that the French intervention is successful. And if the U.S. gets involved in another drawn-out war, that means higher taxes for all Americans (in addition to our already sky-high property dues). Last, the violence in Mali could raise oil prices by causing even more African instability, meaning higher gas prices for American consumers. In the end, teens should certainly hope that Mali returns to a democracy... before it's too late (Once again, DUN DUN DUUUUN).