Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Must Step Carefully in Yemen

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Obama Must Step Carefully in Yemen

Article excerpt

The closing of the US Embassy in Yemen shows the difficulty of beefing up the American counterterrorist effort in the Arab world's poorest country.

The failed bombing of Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day has

pushed President Obama to make a stronger US commitment to Yemen, a

pivotal Muslim country where the alleged jet bomber from Nigeria was

trained.

The US will now more than double its military aid to Yemen while

also possibly providing millions more for government reform and

economic uplift to the poorest nation in the Arab world.

But coming after costly US actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and

Pakistan, Congress and the American people need to ask: Is Yemen

really a country ripe for the kind of nation building that will quell

support for radical Islam?

A key lesson since 9/11 is that US military action and security

assistance alone will not force a Muslim country to act boldly

against militants. And overreacting with force can cause more harm

than benefits. Each country's unique characteristics - such as

the strength of its tribal sheikhs, its history of democratic rule,

the influence of neighboring states - must be weighed carefully in

designing a counterinsurgency strategy.

Most of all, without public confidence of success in a new strategy

toward Yemen, US lawmakers may not support a long-term effort to

expel the militants. Several hundred Al Qaeda operatives are presumed

to be active in this largely lawless nation of 23 million that is the

ancestral home of Osama bin Laden.

The fact that the US had to close its embassy in the Yemeni capital

this week under the threat of a bombing attack gives a clue to the

long and complex struggle ahead.

Wisely, Britain has announced plans for an international meeting in

London Jan. 28 to define a collective strategy toward Yemen that will

include both Western countries and a few Arab states such as Saudi

Arabia. …

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