Monday, January 4, 2010

The Ultimate Teachable Moment

On Christmas Day, 2009, a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to bomb an airliner headed for Detroit.  Supposedly, he received training from al-Qaida in Yemen.  Fortunately, the plot was foiled, and the man was arrested and charged.  But what about the next time such an attack is attempted?

Right-wingers such as Cheney like to castigate Obama for this attack, but let's not forget who dropped the ball on the terrorism issue by taking a detour in Iraq.  You guessed it.  Let's see:  9/11, anthrax attacks, the Beltway Sniper, Madrid, London, and the numerous attacks on our troops (and civilians) in Iraq and Afghanistan--they all happened under the watch of you know who.

But why Yemen?  Aside from being the ancestral homeland of an infamous Saudi terrorist leader named Osama Bin Laden, this extremely poor country is a sort of canary in the coal mine.  They are facing severe poverty and water shortages, and their population is one of the fastest growing in the world.  Such rapid growth, due to very high birthrates, creates a "bulge" of poor young men who are seen as candidates for terrorist recruiters.  And they are (or soon to be) thus the latest failed state, a magnet for terrorists (many of which have been radicalized in Iraq and Afghanistan).  So poverty and resource shortages are a huge part of the problem, and not just for Yemen.

What should America do about Yemen?  Bombing or invading them does not appear to be a particular wise idea--just look at Iraq and Afghanistan.  We need more intelligent solutions.  Providing financial aid to their government may be a temporary palliative, but the root causes of terrorism and instability also need to be addressed.

Let's not fool ourselves. Al-Qaida has set a trap for us if we send in troops.  Let's not take the bait this time around.

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