You be the geopolitician -

You be the geopolitician


From an AP story in today’s Globe and Mail:

Anwar Eshki, the head of the Middle East Center for Strategic and Legal Studies based in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia, said al-Qaeda in Yemen “is stronger than it was a year ago and is turning Yemen into its base for operations against the West.” Mr. Eshki’s centre closely follows al-Qaeda in Yemen.

“Yemen is al-Qaeda’s last resort,” Mr. Eshki said. “There’s no doubt that al-Qaeda’s presence in Yemen is more dangerous than its presence in Afghanistan.”

Assume this is true. What effect, if any, should it have on Obama’s decision to send 30 000 more troops to Afghanistan? What effect, if any, should this have on Canada’s determination to end our combat mission in Afghanistan in 2011? What effect, if any, should this have on our ongoing mission in Afghanistan which — according to the most recent quarterly report, is “to leave Afghanistan to Afghans as a country that is democratic, self-sufficient and stable”?

These are not rhetorical questions. Some might not be relevant at all; but given the original rationale for going in to Afghanistan was to deny al-Qaeda a base from which to launch attacks against the West, it might be worth talking them through.

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You be the geopolitician

  1. My prediction: By this time tomorrow David Eaves, Michael Byers, Amir Attaran, and Janice Gross-Stein will add "Yemen experts" to their bios.

  2. Good questions, but can we take credibly the rest of Eshki's opinions if one of them includes citing Yemen as al-Qaeda's "last resort". I mean seriously, is he proposing that if Yemen didn't exist al-Qaeda would have nowhere in the world to hang?

    Perhaps this is a good entree to the debate you're trying to start: There are a whole lot of Muslim or half-Muslim nations which have very weak or corrupt governments with ineffective security. If al-Qaeda keeps moving, do we keep following? What if each move produces more sympathy for the terrorists? That is, most of the US intelligence surveys indicate that invading Iraq and Afghanistan has led to much more active terrorism cells around the world, feeding the paranoia of Western imperialism. On the other hand, withdrawal would likely embolden the leadership of such groups.

    Could the answer be to treat terrorism less as a geopolitical problem to be solved and more as a security/criminal issue to be managed? I'm not saying I believe this, I'm no expert in this at all- but it comes to mind looking at this problem.

    • Exactly. For example my understanding is they operate with a pretty free hand in Mali (as Robert Fowler can attest). This "last resort" stuff is clearly false.

      There's no military solution to the terrorism problem. What is required is long-term, sustained policing action (supported by good intelligence) and a recognition that we can only suppress the problem not completely eradicate it.

      • An added problem is that there has been some element of Islamic fundamentalism in Saharan
        and sub-Saharan Africa for centuries. There has also been a long history of banditry and tribal
        conflict that is endemic to the region. It could be very easy for some hip young bunch of tribal
        raiders to call themselves al-Qaeda just to be the cool guys in town.

  3. Having stopped over in Sana'a a number of years ago – in the early days after Communist South Yemen reunited with the rest of the country – I can attest that it is a backwards nation populated with jabiya carrying tribemen that make Afghanis look sophisticated. Perfect spot for al Quaeda to plant some seeds.
    On the other hand, if Yemen is so ready to be a breeding ground for terrorists, why isn't King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia expressing concern – his Western loving nation – after all – is next door!

  4. "Assume this is true." Why? Because the media and bought and paid for retired Saudi generals like Eshki working for privately funded "think tanks" with friendly relations with the CIA say so? I and an increasing number of North Americans aren't buying it. Let's take a closer look at the so-called "Al Quaeda":

    "Its management philosophy has been described as "centralization of decision and decentralization of execution."[11] Following the War on Terrorism, it is thought that al-Qaeda's leadership has "become geographically isolated", leading to the "emergence of decentralized leadership" of regional groups using the al-Qaeda "brand name."…Though the current structure of al-Qaeda is unknown, information mostly acquired from Jamal al-Fadl provided American authorities with a rough picture of how the group was organized…When asked about the possibility of Al Qaeda's connection to the 7 July 2005 London bombings in 2005, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: "Al Qaeda is not an organization. Al Qaeda is a way of working … but this has the hallmark of that approach … Al Qaeda clearly has the ability to provide training … to provide expertise … and I think that is what has occurred here…What exactly al-Qaeda is, or was, remains in dispute. Author and journalist Adam Curtis contends that the idea of al-Qaeda as a formal organization is primarily an American invention…The number of individuals in the organization who have undergone proper military training, and are capable of commanding insurgent forces, is largely unknown.""

    In short, there is little factual evidence that there is such a thing as Al Quaeda, and what evidence does exist appears to originate from a recursive "circle jerk" between a gullible media and the CIA, neither of whom have exactly earned the benefit of doubt. The term needs to mean something more than "random Muslims scattered across the globe who are pissed off at America".

  5. Al-CIAda is a nebulous enemy that has been intentionally set up (or at least sufficiently willfully neglected) to be a carrot for America's war horse for eternity. Unfortunately for most Americans, the horse will die before those holding the carrot understand that perpetual war will never be feasible.

    After the even the more intelligent and rational MSM journalists and congressional leaders were so recently and embarrasingly duped by the stories of WMD in Iraq, Osama in a cave, and a nuclear-capable Iran, one would think they might be hesitant to jump on the "bomb, bomb, ba-bomb Yemen" bandwagon. One would be wrong.

  6. The threat from interntaional terrorism is lower than the threat we face from things like car crashes, household fires, cholesterol, or even random street violence.

    By inconveniencing ourselves when we travel, selling out or civil liberties and over reacting, we give these individuals far more power than they could ever dream of.

    Some guy lighting a small fire on an airplane has caused chaos for millions of travellers and cost governments and business 100s of millions of dollars.

    We need to treat these guys like the criminals they are, and not cannonize them by positioning them as the opponents of the west. They are a bunch of incompetent, mentally ill religious fantatics who pose very little threat to our society.