Yemen’s Problems Run Deep
With details over the botched Christmas bombing continuing to surface, U.S. intelligence officials are finally beginning to understand the full extent of the Yemeni problem. The only problem is that it took an ambitious assault on a passenger airliner to get Washington’s attention.
With all of the domestic turmoil that Yemen has faced for the past four decades, it would be rational to think that western governments are working long and hard to contain the its explosive civil conflict. After all, with U.S. forces fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan (albeit covertly), the last thing the U.S. Military needs is another committment requiring a substantial troop presence. Yet, despite the history of violence and Islamic radicalism that has persisted for years in the Yemeni countryside, western powers are still reluctant to devote significant resources in order to counteract the tide.
If there is anything to learn from the latest terrorist attempt against the United States (despite improving security coordination), it is the fact that governments around the world must rely on preventive measures. It is once thing to boost airport security after an incident has already happened. It is an entirely different thing to act before plots are executed.
The great part about counterterrorism is its dynamic and innovative nature. As the U.S. and Great Britain has learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting terrorism does not necessarily require a over-dependence on military force. Soft-power is also key to the anti-terrorist crusade. The building of infrastructure, economic reconstruction, and political transparency can be just as vital as tactical drone-strikes on enemy camps. This could be especially successful in Yemen; a country whose population struggles to find the most menial of work.
I am not totally advocating the elimination of military strikes. In many cases, it is absolutely vital for the U.S. Military to launch operations against terrorist organizations when the opportunity arises. Defending the American homeland is often contingent upon successful operations overseas. But just as raids can bludgen a network, so too can civilian aid and a willingness to address the root causes of political violence; poor education, a lack of resources, corruption, joblessness, and drug addiction.
Yemen faces all of these preconditions. No wonder why Al’Qaeda and other jihadists with similar aspirations continue to pour into this country. Surrounding by two insurgencies, the Yemeni Government is virtually powerless to stop them. This will cease to be the reality unless the international community helps the Yemenis in every way possible, both for the short term and for the long-haul.