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Yemen On, Lather, Rinse, Repeat Cycle

January 13th, 2010

By Ahsan at the Five Rupees Blog

The security-policymaking community in the U.S. works in very predictable ways. Any time a country no one in the U.S. is really familiar with comes up in the news due to some plausible connection to organized terrorism, the following things happen:

1. There is indignation and disgust directed at the government du jour. Government du jour, you see, has been concentrating on Country X With Lots Of Brown People for the longest time, but what it has missed is that Country Y -- which, incidentally, also has Lots Of Brown People -- is also crucial to the war on terrorism.

2. People who have no idea about Country Y With Lots Of Brown People suddenly feel the need to opine on it. This, by the way, is the most entertaining step -- as long as you're not from Country Y With Lots Of Brown People. Nothing is funnier than watching an entire industry of pundits, writers, op-edders, think tankers, cable news invitees, foreign policy "experts" and bloggers pretend to know what the fuck they're talking about.

Of course, if you happen to be from Country Y With Lots Of Brown People, you begin to get worried, because any time the American punditocracy starts talking about you, only bad things happen. This is why I cried myself hoarse during the Pakistan hysteria in the middle of last year, and why I am thoroughly enjoying the Yemen hysteria now.

3. Suddenly, a split emerges, not so much between the right and left, but between the "Wait, hang on a minute, what're we talking about again"ists and the "Bombs away!"ists. The "Bombs away!"ists have never seen a problem that American military action can't solve. Afghanistan? Send it back to the stone age. Saddam Hussein? Invade. Iran? Nuke it. Pakistan? Drone and special ops it to death. Yemen? Hell, we don't know, but do something!

Sometimes their "policy prescriptions" are heeded and sometimes they are not, but remember that the first rule of membership to the "Bombs away"ists crowd is that some form of military action -- really, anything will do -- will help solve the problem. The second rule for them is that not using military action will make the problem so much worse in the future that countless millions of lives in America will be tragically lost. Act now, or run the risk of being forever in regret.

4. People in power have to respond to step 3, which has shifted the contours of the debate significantly toward crazyland. It makes the new "moderate" position anything but, because "moderate" becomes defined by the split between the two extremes in the debate when it should actually be defined in terms of actual conditions on the ground. As an example, consider being on the edge of a cliff, and having two advisers. One tells you to jump. The other tells you to jump, but to untie your shoelaces. Do you know what the moderate position becomes?

Your death. With one shoe untied.

5. The "moderate" position, because it includes some form of intervention, is advanced in policy circles as sensible and wise. It mostly makes things worse, but the important thing to realize, you silly goose, is how much worse things would've been had Moderate Position MP not been advanced in Country Y With Lots Of Brown People. Everyone is patted on the back, until...

6. Country Z With Lots Of Brown People is in the news, because something bad happened there.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

Posted by Ahsan at 1:18 AM 

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