Saving Yemen by Saving Yemen

International intervention to save Yemen is necessary, appropriate and sound policy. I refer you to my posting on this site of March 22, 2011, in which I recommended such. In fact, this site contains several postings warning about Yemen since 2010, but never mind.

It is also reasonable for the intervening nations to base their policy on their own national and collective interests. That’s what nations do. The national self-interest of the interveners, however, is by no means sufficient. International strategies must also encompass what is best for Yemen’s stability and welfare, and interveners should seek collaboration among themselves with Yemeni factions toward that end. That means a return to Yemeni consensus- and institution-building, not using Yemen as the latest battlefield. Otherwise we all will find ourselves reliving this nightmare over and over, and in wickedly innovative and threatening ways.

You might think such a prescription for Yemen is self-evident. It is, but I would argue we have missed that opportunity time and again. Past interventions and assistance have been few, brief, and woefully weak . I would not have been making these arguments for the past five years otherwise.

Current events seem to be pushing Yemen toward a paradigm of Sunni Islam vs. Shi’a Islam, Saudi interests vs. Iranian interests. That will not resolve Yemen’s perennial problems: desperate poverty and natural resource collapse; a Southern secessionist movement; a historically restive Houthi tribal population; and, yes, the infiltration of global jihadist extremists – the most recent of these phenomena.

Attend to Yemen’s disarray, disabilities, and dysfunctions starting now. This will require a decade or more of patient, sustained and well-placed economic and security assistance, not just drones, airstrikes and clandestine operations.

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