What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Monday, January 4, 2010

On Yemen-related affairs, back from holiday

I went off-line for the last couple of days. Then, when I returned, I looked first to find out about Yemen-related developments. Gordon Brown is advocating a big summit meeting about Yemen, probably to give Yemenis and others in the broader Middle East and the Arab world the impression that big global summits with lots of behind-doors meetings and conspiracies of wishful thinkers are in fact governing their countries. As to the Obama administration's reaction: "Washington this year will more than double the $67 million in counterterrorism aid that it provided Yemen in 2009." That money is largely for equipment and financial assistance to CT-related tasks, besides the Pentagon's own so-called 1206 funds, to a country that supposedly would pay for this itself if it would be such a pressing problem for them. The central, rampant belief around Washington is firmly held in what I sometimes call the dual concept of aided attention (DUCAAT): this theory posits on the one hand that other governments ought to be given money to pay attention to problems, and, on the other hand, that if more money is given to these governments to pay attention to said problems the attention they pay "in return" will also grow, in a linear relationship. In other words, really crazy global governance continues (though I have to say my worst fears, while away, were that somebody might have cooked up plans for a larger-scale training mission to rebuild Yemeni security forces).
The interesting thing is that all this is justified with regards to Yemen, because someone from Nigeria, possibly with a helper of "Indian" appearance, tried to bomb an airplane. Eyewitnesses are saying that the helper was there, possibly even in Detroit, where US Customs and Border Protection may have detained him; while the Dutch counterterrorist agency is claiming that they are either all wrong or lied as "their investigation 'into Abdulmutallab's passport pokes holes in the theory that the alleged bomber had help evading security.' "
One would like to see a bit clearer before diving into strategising over what to do with Yemen, right? Well, not exactly. Of course the argument could be made that something different should be done about Yemen in any case. But not on the basis of the Detroit plot for now. And not (or not only) along the lines of DUCAAT, because that is not really different from what we have had before.
Update: as far as the seeing clearer about Detroit part is concerned, in this eyewitness account one of the passangers on board that plane to Detroit states that there was a man detained in Detroit, but probably not the man of Indian appearance who was seen in Amsterdam by the Haskells. The man statedly detained in Detroit was apparently of Middle Eastern origin. I found the video via Kurt Haskell's post at his wife's blog. That crowdsourcing and social media ecosystem blabla notwithstanding, information is still very slow to emerge about this case which still looks interesting enough to me to warrant some inspired reporting and analysis.
As far as the question of what to do WRT Yemen beyond (and possibly instead of) DUCAAT: here is Gregory D. Johnsen's take as a list of five basic recommendations from December 31 - including challenging ones, e.g. that U.S. diplomats should not abstain from a khat chew every now and then, rejecting Yemenese khat as a matter of (stupid) principle; I say this is a challenge given that Western embassies are instead busy closing by now.
Update (January 6) About Detroit, Reuters reports: "Some of the passengers on the plane had said they saw him (Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab - P.M.) accompanied at the gate in Amsterdam by an older, well-dressed Indian or Pakistani man. But the review of more than 200 hours of video showed no one with him, the officials said."

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