Now it’s 2013 and the demonstrators are back. They still point to the persistence of Saleh’s regime as a major problem, but now the re-framing influence of “al-Qaeda” had refocused their anger.
For the past three years al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) has slowly increased its influence in Yemen. Yemen’s failed economy has given AQAP a strong propaganda position. The youth population is growing and it is poor. Public services have declined drastically, increasingly failing as you move our from population centers. The tribal and patronage systems in place for 30 years have disintegrated.
And now AQAP had blamed the failures on the U.S., absolving the Yeminis of responsibility. That coupled with the Drone War Blowback Effect has allowed AQAP to position itself as a savior in a war-based world in which the Yeminis are victims, the U.S. is the Enemy, and al-Qaeda is the answer.
Over-reaction to al-Qaeda’s inroads is a natural outgrowth of negativity bias (placing extra emphasis on nagative events rather than positive ones) but it does not have to take over with its resultant knee-jerk reactions. This tendency to focus on the negative is heightened when a nation is under stress, and must be guarded against. Think of our rush to war, without thinking, after 9/11.
If all attention is focused on AQAP and not on the real structural problems that Yemen faces then AQAP has won. Valuable resources will be sapped in a useless attempt to eliminate the terrorists and the much needed infrastructure repair (physical, economic, and social) will be neglected.
Unfortunately, the U.S. is not the best model of cool-headed thinking under stress. Perhaps John Kerry can bring some of his logical thinking to the fore.
February 9, 2013 by Bruce Wallace, 121Contact