Thursday, January 7, 2010

Questions About Yemen

As the Empire mobilizes its irresistable forces in outraged response to the latest pinpricks of a single fairly incompetent group of Muslim extremists, it is hard to keep the scene in perspective. The Empire looks impressive, with its endless array of weapons and dollars. Exactly how is one to assess the balance of forces?

  • Should one be impressed that a global empire can turn on a dime and alter global policy in response to a single “underpants bomber” or should one view such a reaction as ludicrously amateurish?
  • Is what appears to be the focusing onto little Yemen of something in the neighborhood of $100 million in response to the tiny Yemeni extremist challenge a move to strengthen the empire’s foundations and extend its reach or an appalling waste that cedes the initiative to the opponent at a ratio of dollars to pennies invested that even a global force cannot afford for long?

A decade of lurching from one battlefield to another has enabled the Empire to win many fights, construct an enormous array of new military bases, and make deals with all sorts of new folks. However, it is not clear that the string of day-to-day military victories adds up to anything beyond the ability to fight again on the morrow. It is not clear that any actual enemy can be defeated by using all the new military bases. And then there are those new folks Washington is dealing with.

About the only thing that is actually clear in a decade-long battle is that despite all the power and expenditure and “victories,” Washington is not yet winning. The conflict just keeps moving around, with the new battlefields appearing more complicated than the old and the old all remaining open sores very much subject to future re-infection.

Consider, since Yemen is fashionable this week, the case of Yemen.

It is now being said in the media that Washington is working in Yemen with some of Saddam’s expatriate intelligence guys. The U.S. has been fighting against these guys since 1991, i.e., most of their careers. Might they just possibly have some personal issues with a sudden joint project? It’s worse than that. For the last six or seven years, events have been pushing these anti-fundamentalist secularists into the arms of al Qua’ida, as each force searched for allies against American occupation of Iraq. Might some lasting friendships have been formed?

Then there’s Washington’s other new ally, the Yemeni regime. Former Saddam ally and currently trying to beat into submission a whole range of domestic political opponents who for some reason feel they have the right to participate in the political process, the current regime also has a record of readiness to work with local Muslim extremists that rivals that of Pakistani intelligence.

So the question arises, “Does Washington’s new effort to combat extremism in Yemen by working with such folks strengthen the U.S. or just expose it to further future disasters?

Of course, I do not know the answer to any of these questions. I doubt that anyone does. The real question is, “Is anyone even asking these questions?”

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