Last night, I had not one, but two friends tell me they wanted to go back to Yemen… right now. As crazy as that sounds, I do understand where they are coming from. Despite the tribalism that is starting to rip Yemen apart, there is something special about the place that makes so many westerners want to go back. As I remember, those two friends were more than a little crazy and ready to get the hell out of Yemen the last time I saw them. Another friend came and saw me three times in Yemen, each time he said it would be his last. He has been back since. An Australian came to Sana’a as part of her sweep up Eastern Africa expecting to stay 3 weeks. She was there 6 months. I was more than a little crazy by the time I left too, but I miss it.
I hope that whatever has been kept under wraps for 30 years can be sorted out somewhat quickly. I am dead set against any American involvement in whatever is to come in Yemen. Some say that Al Queda is too dangerous to allow them to get a foothold in Yemen. I’ll point to their fearsome success of blowing up a guys underwear and the shipping ink cartridge “bombs.” Their attempts in Yemen were pretty pathetic, the running joke was that none of their plans were coming to fruition because none of them wanted to give up their cell phone to act as a detonator. Yes, they attempted to bomb the American embassy, but they didn’t get close and only managed to kill some Yemeni troops and a single, unlucky American. Their crowning moment happened in 2000 with the attack on the Cole. Yes, Americans were killed, but the damage could have been minimized if even basic security procedures were followed. When a missile cruiser is damaged at all and deaths occur from an attack from an inflatable boat, someone fell down on the job. The Unabomber was a far more effective terrorist and yet we didn’t need a single Tomahawk missile or special ops group to get him. All of the same things that are being said about Yemen were also said about Somalia. As it turns out, a chaotic situation is not conducive to world-wide terror plots. Too much energy and time is spent on maintaining local power and influence. The crazier it is in Yemen, the less likely Queda will be able to mount any attacks at all. Even if they did, their attempts in recent memory have been laughable.
More than any of that though, I don’t want us doing anything that gives Yemenis reason to hate us. It”s bad enough that we supported Salah all these years. We have to let them figure things out on their own and find their own balance. Raining missiles down on them or attacking them will not make us the good guys. Don’t give Queda recruiting fodder. I would like to go back one day, please don’t make the US the enemy.