So, the Arab Spring has rolled into the summer, and continues to do so this autumn. Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have witnessed wholesale regime change, thankfully not executed at the directive of US policy, but, rather, by their own populations. Syria continues to be rocked by a violent struggle between various segments of reformists, and other countries, such as Jordan and Morocco have pledged democratic reforms to please those parts of their populace that are disaffected by years of misrule.
Another country, Yemen has continued through 2011 at a low boil, but violence there seems to be picking up. Demonstrators in Sanaa, the Yemeni capital, have been attacked by pro-government forces, and upwards of 11 people have died in the capital since this past Sunday. The stage for violence was set this past summer when Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh was attacked and left the country to seek medical treatment in Saudi Arabia. Since then, he has been recovering in the kingdom, directing the affairs of government from his sickbed there. Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, the nation’s vice president, has basically been running the show for the president from the capital in his boss’ absence.
A transfer of power to the opposition is currently being negotiated. And, for as shoddy as Saleh’s leadership has been, despotic strongman that he is, he’s the one person who’s adequately positioned to run the basketcase of a nation. It’s likely that Islamic extremists will have far more power in the country after Saleh’s government has exited the stage. Yemen is a classic case for the US of ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t.’ The legacy of US policy trying to prop up kleptocratic strongmen who would at least keep a semblance of order in place against the forces of Islamic extremism has come due, and, like in Egypt, we are likely to see a government that, while it may be more responsive to the needs of its people, it will not be nearly as accommodating of US needs in the ‘global war on terror.’ That will be painful for us, but it’s a price we have to pay. Better to pay a smaller bill now than kick the can down the road and get nailed with an even bigger bill in the years to come.