The closing of the American, British, and now French embassies in Yemen have caused a crescendo in concerns about the poor Arabian peninsula state. (Catch up on Wire coverage of Yemen's terror troubles here and here.) American officials plan to cooperate with Yemen's government to thwart al-Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula. How should they proceed? Many foreign policy experts believe that any action in Yemen risks exacerbating the country's problems, and should be undertaken extremely delicately.
- Give Aid to Yemen's People, Not Its Government, urges Brian Whitaker in the Guardian. Whitaker laments that Yemen only comes to attention "when something untoward happens affecting foreigners - when it gets a brief period of attention before it's forgotten again." He goes on to outline the endemic problems that need to be addressed, from drought and overpopulation to the authoritarian government itself. "Whatever else is done, it's important to distinguish between measures that benefit Yemen and those that benefit the regime of its president, Ali Abdullah Saleh."
- Bolster the Government Through Education, Aid, writes the editorial board of the Washington Post. "More than Special Forces and missile strikes are needed: The relatively friendly central government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh should be bolstered with education and economic development programs...U.S. ground troops are not needed, for now."
- Don't Overreact, argues Marc Lynch in Foreign Policy. Lynch believes the increased focus on Yemen could lead to an overreaction that plays "right into the hands of a terrorist group." He dismisses proposed approaches such as relying on the Saudis, funneling aid to President Saleh, and (worst of all) invasion. He concludes, "Be patient, build intelligence and CT assets, strike against clearly AQ targets when available but only where the civilian costs will be minimal and the rewards high, search out local partners... the usual. But the administration shouldn't fall into the trap of thinking it must 'do something' to fend off political harping from the right."
- Let the Arabian Peninsula Help, suggests Bruce Riedel at the Daily Beast. Riedel touches on Yemen's desperate poverty, drug addiction, and obsession with arms to argue that "there is no 'made in America' answer to al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula...We can and should help with military and economic assistance, but the Yemenis have to buy into the job."
- Don't Repeat Western Mistakes, argues Marwan Bishara in Al Jazeera. Bishara's vision is pessimistic. "By offering more military training, arms, naval patrolling, intelligence sharing and possibly shared offensive operations, the West might help prolong and sustain an autocratic regime...Mostly, though, it will aggravate a fragile state of Yemen into a failing state." He credits some of Yemen's radicalization to American misadventures in the Middle East, concluding "any attempt at a military solution could only exacerbate an already untenable situation."