Yemen the New Afghanistan

Is Yemen the next Afghanistan and if so can and should we do anything about it? Should the US become directly involved and if so, to what extent? What are the potential negative consequences for the United States and her allies if the US does not become directly involved?

Establishing a TOR Baseline

We can begin with a TOR (Terms Of Reference baseline) that is established as a reference to potential strategic and competitive issues, such as what is the state of Yemen as the next Afghanistan, as of the present day? What is the scope of the situation? What is our mandate or requirement? How do we define expectations? What do we expect?

Where is Yemen Politically?

Essentially, Yemen is currently a more or less ungovernable and leaderless state. According to current news reports Yemen has gone well past the semi-governed state, some time ago between 2011 and 2013. Currently Saudi Arabia is using air strikes to assist one side of the conflict but Iran is attempting to supply the other side with arms, the latter of which is exposed to interdiction by US naval forces in the region. It is not in current news reports but the assumption is that US special forces may still engaged inside Yemen and in the process of hunting and eliminating terrorist cells, either on the ground or by use of armed drone aircraft, or even both.

The Nuclear Proliferation Baseline

The most important factor to consider in the baseline is Iran’s propensity for production of nuclear weapons, the possible nuclear development response from the Saudi’s (who can probably afford it at present), and as a result the potential for armed or even nuclear exchange between the competing Islamic factions of Iran and Saudi Arabia – this is not a near term reality but a future possibility.

The Yemen Economic Baseline

The other baseline issue is Yemen’s dire economic situation, and given that the West has not attempted improving the economic and politically democratic situation of a country such as Yemen, then perhaps it is high time we tried that approach. After all, the Arab Spring has not as yet produced any direct Islamic fundamentalist based attacks on the West (yet), although Libya could become a problem in the future given its current leaderless and ungoverned status.

What Could we Think About?

  • Focusing on current news reports as indications of trends seems like a sensible approach.
  • Is Yemen turning into a new Afghanistan where fundamentalist suicide bombers will ultimately emerge to attack the West?
  • Could current circumstance help to precipitate a nuclear arms race and potential future detonation exchange, in addition to creating a safe haven for terrorists, organized criminals, and other unsavory elements; given Yemen’s geographical location.
  • Will any potential nuclear weapons eventually threaten The West? Is any potential nuclear exchange a threat to the overall health of the planet given the likelihood of firestorms and a nuclear winter as a result of even a minor multiple nuclear exchange between two regional powers?
  • Can we help Yemen and if so how? To really make a success of peaceful economic growth and prosperity we can help, but the incentive must come from within the people of Yemen itself. The first problem to solve might be the issue of removing the violence, or the cause for it (other than the economic reasons) – split the country – allow it to split – they are two different nations.

Are There Possible Solutions?

Is it possible that we could think out of the box a little and perhaps make a meaningful contribution by doing something a little differently? (1) The George Bush administration intervened in the Middle East, (2) the Obama administration has taken and hands off approach and allowed the Middle East to sort its own problems out (Egypt, from dictatorship, to Morsi and democracy, and back to dictatorship – Libya – Syria), (3) perhaps both of those approaches have their dysfunctional aspects and neither have worked, even though (1) was far more expensive than (2) – in more ways than one. So perhaps a better approach is to encourage, promote and finance a democratic discourse between the competing factions in Yemen, strengthen government through aid programs not involving weaponry but involving building infrastructure (or did we do this in Iraq already? Even though we destroyed it in the first place), (4) a fourth option is to allow North and South Yemen to split into two separate nations – these are Shia and Sunni Muslims in the same country – Saudi Arabia and Iran are different variations of Islamic belief and they are not one country. Why do we always insist on maintaining territorial integrity that was created in colonial days, which caused many conflicts in Africa and South East Asia simply because countries are single nations of people who don’t get along, as created by borders drawn up during scenarios such as the 19th century scramble for Africa between Britain, France, and to a minor degree Portugal, Italy and Germany. So we drew those borders a century and more ago – can we now allow those borders to redraw themselves? Are there any sensible reasons why we should continue to insist that countries maintain their current territorial lines? It causes internal conflicts between the people’s who inhabit those regions. After all, the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe have splintered into pieces and they seem to get along – mostly. And now perhaps the United Kingdom will lose Scotland someday and perhaps some states in the United States will someday secede because of extreme political differences of opinion. Additionally, Western European, Eastern European countries and even ex Soviet states in Asia are now grouped together economically. So why must we continue to not think about allowing factions to go their own separate ways politically, such as a country like Yemen staying together as one when the different sects in the North and the South clearly do not get along, and any government is clearly dominated by either faction, leaving the losing faction subjugated, picked-on, angry and rebellious.

Has anything we tried before actually worked? And if not what else can we try that we have perhaps never thought of before? We have to think out of the box here and put away our preconceived notions and try to figure out how to create happier people in a country like Yemen, because happy people generally are unlikely suicide bombers. Is it not the case that most of the members of ISIS are not locals but a ragtag collection of misfits, rejects and fanatical narcissistic sociopaths from all corners of the world? What are we missing here? There is something we are not understanding fundamentally because so far we still have a potential problem. We are a target and we should not be unless we make ourselves one because the fact is that different factions within any culture do not necessarily get along too well, and when poverty and desperation are introduced there will probably be violence.