For a long time, the US seemed invulnerable to what even Yemen analysts admit is an intricate subject to understand, let alone attempt to explain in a straightforward manner. The US drones buzzed overhead independent from all of this. They “took out” whomever they suspected was an al-Qaeda affiliate. President Barack Obama was even revealed to have approved of a “secret kill list,” and agreed to consider counting casualties in such a way that “essentially designates all military-aged males in a strike zone as military combatants”.
In fact, a timeline of events that have befallen poverty-stricken Yemen shows a strange phenomenon where US involvement in that country operates parallel to but separate from all other horrific events, violence, suffering and politicking. Sure, the US’s shadowy war had augmented the suffering, demoralised the nation and undermined whatever political process was underway – especially after the Yemeni version of the Arab Spring early 2011. However, the US paid little heed to Yemen’s fragile alliances and the fact that the country was on a fast track towards civil war, even worse a regional war that was direct or by proxy.
That responsibility of mending broken Yemen was left to the United Nations. But with regional rivalry between Iran and Gulf countries at its peak, UN envoys had little margin for meaningful negotiations. Despite repeated assurances that the “national dialogue” was on its way to repair Yemen’s body politic, it all failed.
Yet the US continued with its war unabated, arming whomever it deemed an ally, exploiting regional differences, and promoting the power of al-Qaeda in ways that far exceeded their presence on the ground. It saw Yemen as a convenient “war on terror”. This was enough to give Obama the tough persona that American voters love about their presidents, without the high risk of military quagmires like the ones that his predecessor, George W Bush, created in Iraq and Afghanistan.
It was hardly that simple. Even a “clean” drone war activated from faraway places is rarely enough to guarantee results.
– Read more: The Collapse of the Obama Doctrine in Yemen – Ramzy Baroud, Middle East Eye