The US Intervention in Yemen

In Yemen we face a system of governance that is complicated beyond belief, with shifting tribal-based factions maneuvering with or against the center in an environment that we shall never understand in the necessary detail. All these factions have their own axes to grind, going back generations. In and around all this jungle we have a few genuine terrorists, al-Qaeda types, who know the political terrain a lot better than we do, and are using their knowledge more or less skillfully to advance their cause.

We come in like a bull in an arena, motivated by the scent of the terrorists. The matador (read, the official top dog in Yemen) uses that scent as his red flag in the ensuing bullfight. The rest of the players, like the picadors in the bullfight, are scrambling around either trying to use the situation to their advantage or to get out of the way.

We have the unmanned drone, raw power to kill, as our only effective weapon. How do we know we’re using it on the right targets when the people advising us, who know what they are doing, are advising us to suit their purposes not ours?

If we left them alone to duke it out by themselves they would establish a new equilibrium pretty soon, and kick out the terrorists, who are an alien and generally unpopular lot for the most part, by local standards.

There are striking parallels here to our situation in Afghanistan, which can serve as an object lesson for what we might face if we continue on our present course in Yemen.

If you have a bullfight coming your way, isn’t it better to be a spectator, rather than the bull?

Carl Coon

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1 Response to The US Intervention in Yemen

  1. Thoth says:

    President Eisenhower warned us that:

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. ”
    (From Public Papers of the Presidents, Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1960, p. 1035- 1040)

    In the news about Secretary Gates warning to NATO of future irrelevancy, I read that the bottom line in the complaint was that many members of NATO were spending less than 2% of GDP on their militaries. In the U.S. we spend more than double that and have for a long time which in terms of the income of the Federal Government has translated by some counts (including the debt and interest payments it could be blamed for loading us up with) into just over 50% of the government’s entire budget. See the following link for this data:

    Therefor, it may not be just the tribal infighting in a far off desert land that enjoys having our money to fight with. More to the point, it may be our own military industrial tribe right here in the U.S. that makes sure we send our bull everywhere to make the best patrons of their business. Terrorism was a great windfall to military production and spending–the perfect guise for perpetual war against an enemy that is never going to have any chance of really beating us nor of surrendering or going away (as featured in the book 1984). It looks like I may have to update than essay “The Mouse Trap” I wrote years ago where I described the consumer as the mouse lured by the cheese of advertised consumer products. Now a way has been found to take away some of the cheese of consumer products to impoverish the middle class with, and to still impoverish all but the independently wealthy over time with the continual slashing of social services and the every increasing inflation of military spending. The mouse is now chased into the mouse traps by artificial cat noises without even the lure of the cheese!

    Once the project is complete, Plato and Aristotle both predict we will have no democracy left at all. Plato says that over time in a democracy one passion (fear) will be used to destroy the influence of all other passions that formally had equality in a democracy, so that the through the one mighty beast of the single dominant passion, tyranny can be established and hold sway. Aristotle says that a stable constitutional government (a.k.a. a healthy democracy) requires a strong and dominant middle class without many great extremes of poverty and wealth. Clearly we are in great and rapid decline in those terms as well.

    Another website makes a good point about the more and more unspoken problem of our military spending:

    “If our spending was in line with the rest of the world we could easily balance our budget. Just about every country in Europe, for example, spends less that 2% of its GDP on defense. Most are around 1% and the whole European Union together only spends 1.69%. We spend 4.65%. It is this imbalance that makes it easy for the top 1-2% to keep us busy fighting each other, rather than focusing on them, the real cause of the problem.”

    “Clearly if we reduced our defense spending by 80% or more, our budget would look better. I can’t help but think the world would be better off, too.”

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