Saturday, January 16, 2010

The locals in Yemen are not necessarily becoming radicalized by the presence of Al Qaeda extremists but they will eventually warm to their presence on account of the protection they offer against government oppression and general criminality as Yemen comes closer to becoming a failed state. This is approximately the stage of "infection" that AQ has currently reached within Yemeni society. The true danger to the rest of the world comes not from what AQ and its affiliate groups do from hereon out in Yemen but instead depends upon the international community’s reaction to their presence there.

The eminent counterinsurgency scholar David Kilcullen has written extensively about "accidental guerrillas," locals that do not necessarily share the views of the extremists they harbor but are brought into the fight against western powers nonetheless on account of heavy-handed counterinsurgency campaigns designed to kill terrorists, but that in reality kill mostly civilians. Air strikes and Predator attacks are particularly good at creating these "accidental guerrillas" as they kill indiscriminately with little thought given to the true danger of collateral damage. Especially in cultures that are tribally oriented, the need to seek revenge against those responsible for the death of a family member is considered a duty upon which the family’s honor rests.

Unfortunately, the international community currently has its hands full occupying two other predominantly Muslim countries and thus the forces are not available to conduct a proper counterinsurgency campaign in Yemen. However, instead of increasing drone attacks within Yemen’s borders, the U.S. should instead first try a modified carrot and stick approach. In this instance the carrot will be foreign direct investment and World Bank loans to help revive Yemen’s failing economy or at the very least keep it from collapsing. This is something the international community should be doing regardless in order to prevent Yemen from becoming a failed state. The stick should be an information campaign that seeks to reach out to tribal leaders in order to educate them on recent history. As of last month, Yemen joined the list of countries from which AQ has launched direct attacks on U.S. soil. Specifically, the last country to allow such gross malfeasance is currently being occupied by nearly 90,000 foreign troops with more on the way. The point of this education is to convey the message that the presence of foreign fighters in their lands is a direct threat to tribal autonomy.

And that’s my fifty cents (inflation…)

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