In the ongoing struggle between northern Mali’s secessionist Taureg fighters and a local Islamic jihadist group, Ansar Dine, the Islamists claim to have driven all remaining rebels from a third and final large town in the region. If the reports are accurate it would complete their control over a lawless area that may serve as a stronghold for al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups in the Maghreb.Strengthened by the return of experienced and well-armed Tuareg soldiers hired by Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi, the secessionists worked with Asnar Dine in January to beat back the feeble Malian national forces. Their alliance, however, was superficial – divided by fundamental tribal and religious differences, it took only a few weeks before the two groups violently turned on each other.The defeated national forces, for their part, were unsatisfied with the democratically elected president’s efforts to combat the rebel attacks and overthrew him to establish a junta that refuses to hold elections while the north remains occupied.In the background of this depressing landscape are the civilians who, backing neither rebel force, face increasingly alarming resource shortages and are resorting to extreme measures to secure food and water.As we warned early on in NATO’s fudged Wilsonian effort in Libya, it was not in American or European interests to jump on a moralistic bandwagon that would end in a mere shifting of violence to the outer edges of the humanitarian disaster. Mali now stands to lose two decades of steady progress towards a more prosperous life for its citizens.The Islamists, meanwhile, are celebrating their win by taking a leaf out of the Taliban’s Afghan playbook. Just as the Taliban destroyed ancient Buddhist sculptures in Afghanistan, the Ansar is going after the memorials and tombs of Sufi saints and other world heritage buildings in Timbuktu.Humanitarianism that isn’t strategic isn’t just weak; it is actively evil. It wreaks havoc on the lives of poor and powerless people so that the powerful and well connected can feel good about themselves.The impulse to help those in distress is a noble one; but acting on this impulse without thinking it through is often more destructive in its consequences than doing nothing at all.