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Thread: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

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    Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    From today's edition of The Washington Post:

    Islamist extremists, many suspected of links to al-Qaeda, are engaged in an intensifying struggle against government forces for control of southern Yemen, taking advantage of a growing power vacuum to create a stronghold near vital oil-shipping lanes, said residents and Yemeni and U.S. officials.

    Over the past few weeks, the militants have swiftly taken over two towns, including Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province, and surrounding areas and appear to be pushing farther south, said Yemeni security officials and residents. Increasingly, it appears as if al-Qaeda’s regional affiliate is seeking for the first time to grab and hold large swaths of territory, adding a dangerous dimension to Yemen’s crisis.
    Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen - The Washington Post

    What is unfolding provides a classic illustration of the dangers of a power vacuum. IMO, the U.S. should have pursued a strategic reassessment to understand more about what was going on in Yemen, rather than immediately seeking an end to the tyranny in that state. Such a reassessment would likely have revealed that Yemen was probably seeing more a slow reignition of its earlier civil war than the spontaneous pursuit of liberal democracy. The call for democracy was merely the packaging deployed by anti-regime elements to create a perception of legitimacy.

    Unfortunately, unlike Libya in which U.S. interests are peripheral, Yemen still possesses greater geopolitical significance albeit below the level during the Cold War. Until the turmoil there, Al Qaeda had been declining. The emergent power vacuum may well have reinvigorated the terrorist organization and amplified its reach.

    My guess is that Yemen's neighbors may have to play a pivotal role in trying to arrest Yemen's collapse, if absolutely necessary, or at least contain the fallout of such an outcome. The current regime has been discredited and a U-turn from the U.S. is unlikely, as it would undermine U.S. prestige.

    Even if the current government tries to hang on, the limits of its authority have been exposed and various factions, including Al Qaeda, are attacking that limited authority relentlessly and brutally, and further diminishing it. If the government falls or is replaced by a transitional government, that successor government will likely be perceived as weak from the onset. Its weakness will almost certainly be challenged. Hence, there may be no near-term respite from the ongoing assault, particularly from Al Qaeda. Unless Yemen's military forces possess adequate power to impose stability--and that capability is in question--Yemen could continue to evolve toward becoming an even greater element of regional instability.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    Quote Originally Posted by donsutherland1 View Post
    From today's edition of The Washington Post:



    Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen - The Washington Post

    What is unfolding provides a classic illustration of the dangers of a power vacuum. IMO, the U.S. should have pursued a strategic reassessment to understand more about what was going on in Yemen, rather than immediately seeking an end to the tyranny in that state. Such a reassessment would likely have revealed that Yemen was probably seeing more a slow reignition of its earlier civil war than the spontaneous pursuit of liberal democracy. The call for democracy was merely the packaging deployed by anti-regime elements to create a perception of legitimacy.

    Unfortunately, unlike Libya in which U.S. interests are peripheral, Yemen still possesses greater geopolitical significance albeit below the level during the Cold War. Until the turmoil there, Al Qaeda had been declining. The emergent power vacuum may well have reinvigorated the terrorist organization and amplified its reach.

    My guess is that Yemen's neighbors may have to play a pivotal role in trying to arrest Yemen's collapse, if absolutely necessary, or at least contain the fallout of such an outcome. The current regime has been discredited and a U-turn from the U.S. is unlikely, as it would undermine U.S. prestige.

    Even if the current government tries to hang on, the limits of its authority have been exposed and various factions, including Al Qaeda, are attacking that limited authority relentlessly and brutally, and further diminishing it. If the government falls or is replaced by a transitional government, that successor government will likely be perceived as weak from the onset. Its weakness will almost certainly be challenged. Hence, there may be no near-term respite from the ongoing assault, particularly from Al Qaeda. Unless Yemen's military forces possess adequate power to impose stability--and that capability is in question--Yemen could continue to evolve toward becoming an even greater element of regional instability.
    Yemen would make a great parking lot for an OIL play. Nuke it. Use it as a forward base to kick those lyin' Saudi's asses and cut out the middleman in the OIL deal.. A very Republican concept and a Corporate ringer. Let's get r' done. We steal OIL under cover of terrorism.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    This makes me wish more than ever that we had some veteran diplomats at the State Dept. In Hillary's job, and the White House had someone in it who was not a rank amateur because the situation over there is one match away from blowing up.

    If it does we are screwed and will face gas prices of about $10 a gal.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    Quote Originally Posted by Councilman View Post
    This makes me wish more than ever that we had some veteran diplomats at the State Dept. In Hillary's job, and the White House had someone in it who was not a rank amateur because the situation over there is one match away from blowing up.

    If it does we are screwed and will face gas prices of about $10 a gal.
    IMO, the issue is much larger than whether Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had seasoned diplomats at her disposal or even second-in-charge. Instead, the ad hoc, reactive, and sometimes stumbling U.S. response suggests that the U.S. had no strategy for emergent political change in the Middle East, even as the region has not been immune to revolutionary and counterrevolutionary forces. The U.S. was literally caught by surprise by events. It had no framework against which it could evaluate events by the structural, institutional, historic, etc., context of the states in which popular movements erupted. It had no understanding of who the various actors were, what their true intentions are, and how to balance legitimate aspirations for change with critical U.S. interests in the region.

    Instead, the U.S. immediately assumed that the "Arab Spring," badly labeled after the Prague Spring (a genuine popular movement for freedom), was a liberal movement in the traditions of previous movements in Eastern Europe, the Philippines, etc. Absent was a robust understanding of the dynamics in the affected societies, the parties/factions involved, and U.S. interests, as well as how all those factors intersected. Hence, one saw policy swings from hesitation to active calls for regime change. One saw confusion, misguided assertions that some leaders such as Bashar Assad were "reformers," and military engagement in Libya where the U.S. lacked critical interests. One saw an instictive call to push Yemen's authoritarian regime from power when almost nothing about its opponents was known, the devastating impact of its past civil war was forgotten, and Al Qaeda's willingness to exploit any power vacuums to revive itself was not properly assessed. One saw the U.S. flirt with a subtle push for regime change in Bahrain when, in fact, Iran could have gained a fresh strategic foothold had Bahrain's Shia prevailed. Bahrain's neighbors, who would have been exposed to the consequences of such an outcome, who would have faced the risks associated with Iran's further eroding the current balance of power in the region, and who intimately understand the medium- and long-term danger posed by a rising, revolutionary Iran, acted in concert to bring an end to the uprising there. That a minority government was preserved is far less important to those states than the damage that might have been inflicted on their interests from a new majority government in Bahrain. In Lebanon, a new Hezbollah government has just taken office and among the key priorities articulated by that regime is to "liberate" Lebanese land that is "occupied" by Israel.

    In the end, I believe the Obama Administration and, if it is replaced after 2012, a successor Administration, needs to make it a priority to develop a coherent Middle East strategy. Such a strategy should focus on objective factors, articulate a clear vision of U.S. interests and goals, lay out a path for safeguarding those interests/achieving those goals, including the maintenance of a balance of power that precludes Iranian regional preeminence. The strategy should consider scenarios and approaches for helping influence evolutionary change. It should contain scenarios and contingency plans for addressing revolutionary events. Those scenarios should be grounded in the region's history, culture, ideologies, structure, institutions, etc., not wishful thinking that embraces only the most benign or favorable assumptions. Otherwise, the U.S. will again be caught be surprise, with only the timing and nature of the "surprise" left to be determined.
    Last edited by donsutherland1; 06-13-11 at 03:46 PM.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    The fact that we are assuming that liberal democracies are the natural, and obvious, outcome here, and in the rest of the ME, shows a startling lack of pragmatism.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    Quote Originally Posted by ManofthPeephole View Post
    The fact that we are assuming that liberal democracies are the natural, and obvious, outcome here, and in the rest of the ME, shows a startling lack of pragmatism.
    Agreed, particularly when they haven't been the outcome ever before. Of course, we only have abut 3,000 years of sampling to look at, so.......

    My fear is that every one of these regions will end up in the hands of radical Islamists. The Muslim Brotherhood wreaks of it.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    Quote Originally Posted by Councilman View Post
    This makes me wish more than ever that we had some veteran diplomats at the State Dept. In Hillary's job, and the White House had someone in it who was not a rank amateur because the situation over there is one match away from blowing up.

    If it does we are screwed and will face gas prices of about $10 a gal.
    I'm in favor of the $10 gal. It would usher alternative/renewable energies to the forefront. We could get rid of the grid. One cylinder, small, efficient cars and a National attitude to build jobs that renew themselves. That'd be renewable energy. The downside is that a lot of Corporations would shrink to fit or be eleminated. No down sides in my opinion. Give the rich corporations their own island and tell them to stay on it. They would be encouraged to take their nuke waste with them.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    Quote Originally Posted by DaveFagan View Post
    Give the rich corporations their own island and tell them to stay on it. They would be encouraged to take their nuke waste with them.
    I disagree. Corporations, like any human institution, are not automatically and irredeemably "evil," though they are no more immune from the limitations of human nature than any other human entity. They can provide a lot of value. Of course, hostility toward large, powerful businesses is not new. Indeed, at the time of Singapore's independence, multinational corporations were widely viewed in negative terms by "development" economists. Singapore's leader, Lee Kuan Yew chose to ignore such thought, as he had real problems to solve. Singapore rapidly transitioned from underdeveloped to developed economic status. Later, in his memoirs, Lee recounted:

    The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNCs were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNCs continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries. MNCs controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee [Goh Keng Swee, Singapore’s Finance Minister] and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma. Anyway, Singapore had not natural resources for MNCs to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNCs could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNCs.

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    Re: Militants linked to al-Qaeda emboldened in Yemen

    Quote Originally Posted by donsutherland1 View Post
    I disagree. Corporations, like any human institution, are not automatically and irredeemably "evil," though they are no more immune from the limitations of human nature than any other human entity. They can provide a lot of value. Of course, hostility toward large, powerful businesses is not new. Indeed, at the time of Singapore's independence, multinational corporations were widely viewed in negative terms by "development" economists. Singapore's leader, Lee Kuan Yew chose to ignore such thought, as he had real problems to solve. Singapore rapidly transitioned from underdeveloped to developed economic status. Later, in his memoirs, Lee recounted:

    The accepted wisdom of development economists at the time was that MNCs were exploiters of cheap land, labor, and raw materials. This “dependency school” of economists argued that MNCs continued the colonial pattern of exploitation that left the developing countries selling raw materials to and buying consumer goods from the advanced countries. MNCs controlled technology and consumer preferences and formed alliances with their host governments to exploit the people and keep them down. Third World leaders believed this theory of neocolonialist exploitation, but Keng Swee [Goh Keng Swee, Singapore’s Finance Minister] and I were not impressed. We had a real-life problem to solve and could not afford to be conscribed by any theory or dogma. Anyway, Singapore had not natural resources for MNCs to exploit. All it had were hard-working people, good basic infrastructure, and a government that was determined to be honest and competent. Our duty was to create a livelihood for 2 million Singaporeans. If MNCs could give our workers employment and teach them technical and engineering skills and management know-how, we should bring in the MNCs.
    To me the Singapore statement is admirable but out of context. Singapore was not manipulated by a military/industrial/corporate complex that feeds on war. When your business is military, you need wars and although it appears they just happen, you can be certain there is constant manipulation to "gin up" new wars. That'd be very profitable wars. Very Republican. The USA thrives on war. That is what a $700 billion + defense/offense budget is about. Wars operate on energy, ergo the energy companies are complicit. Wars operate on credit at this time , ergo the banksters are complicit. Wars use up commodities, ergo commodities dealers are complicit. Etc. Etc. Etc. Ad infinitum.

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