The US and the entire world ought to be very worried about what's going in in Mali, Algeria, and the rest of the Sahel region in Africa, because things are going to get much worse without "radical new policies," writes obstetrician Malcolm Potts in the Los Angeles Times. But such changes start with the not-so-radical ideas of educating girls and making sure women have access to birth control. Islamic fundamentalists are taking advantage of exploding populations—including countless young men with no prospect of work—and cultures that think it's OK to marry off girls as young as 10 to polygamous husbands.
Small experiments in villages have shown that it's possible to keep girls in school. "It will take 20 years and billions of dollars to bring projects such as this to scale, but there is no other plausible way to bring stability to the region," writes Potts. It may sound like a lot of money, but consider that the US already has spent $620 million in military training in the region, without much to show for it, he writes. Yes, we need boots on the ground, "but the war [on] terror will continue to fail unless we convert a few days' military expenditure into investing in girls' education and family planning." Read his full column here. (Read more Sahel stories.)