Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why the US will prevent the fall of Ali Abdullah Saleh in Yemen

Where does Yemen align with Egypt? As the celebration continues in Egypt, the protests continue in Yemen. The Egyptian victory, which has cast a shadow over the other protests taking place in the middle East, will inevitably provide a spark-plug for the Yemeni people in their attempts to overthrow president Ali Saleh. Yet, the millions of people who cheered for a Egyptian revolution now find themselves in a predicament. The protests in Egypt, though hostile at times, failed to present an eminent political threat internationally. In fact, Americans especially, see a resemblance between what happened there to what happened during the beginnings of our own country. It is a situation where the people progress enough to be able to effectively govern themselves and render obsolete the role of oppressive dictatorship. However, Yemen is NOT ready. As much as the victory in Egypt is a step toward democracy in the Middle East, the Yemeni protests will be a step backwards if Ali Saleh falls before the 2013 election. The fear, unlike in Egypt, is that the alternative WILL be worse than

the current government. Yemen is far behind both socially and politically than Egypt. Almost HALF the population in Yemen lives on less than 2$ a day and the illiteracy rate is even higher. What is even more troubling is that there are 3 guns for every SINGLE citizen. ( This concoction makes a revolution meaningless. It is guaranteed that this same pattern of civil unrest will continue regardless of who takes power next. In Egypt, the people will vote for a new leader, in Yemen, the people with be taken over by the person who can quarter the most deadly weapons. In a place that ALREADY harbors many of the world's terrorists what will happen when the US has zero leverage over a new Yemeni government? Even worse is the position the US now finds themselves in. The US will HAVE to help the Yemeni government to prevent its collapse yet, after continued refusal to help the Egyptian government during their turmoil, the US will unveil a glaring flaw in our foreign policy. Democracy does not work for everyone.

1 comment:

Maggie said...


You raise important questions from our previous debate over which foreign policy approach is best: always supporting democracy or the alternative "realist" approach. With Egypt as our example, the answer to me seemed relatively clear. Like you said, an Egyptian revolution did not seem to pose a severe threat to international peace (despite some concerns about the Muslim Brotherhood and an end to Arab/Israeli peace). Therefore, supporting Egypt through a democratic transition seemed to be the best option. Yet Yemen is different. In this case, it seems that the realists have a much stronger case. The threat of Al Qaeda certainly gives America a strong incentive to continue to support Saleh, a leader who has continuously fought against terrorism.

But I still have some concerns. Saleh's reign has been corrupt and ineffective. Though he promises to combat terrorism, it seems that he has little control over the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda. Saleh is now quickly becoming less and less popular and simultaneously is losing his power. If the United States continues to support this autocrat--despite the people's demands--could we be inadvertently fueling a potentially more dangerous outcome? Is a strategy of purchasing stability at the cost of freedom and anti-American sentiment a good plan for the long run?

I'm torn with this one. But one thing I disagree with is your statement that Democracy does not work for everyone. I certainly do not think that Jeffersonian democracy is best for everyone, yet the democratic waves of the last century show that democracy can work in many different forms.