Francisco Martin Rayo
By Francisco Martin-Rayo
The Obama administration’s heavy-handed approach to drone strikes in Yemen has blurred the distinction between terrorist and innocent civilian. As administration officials continue to identify nearly all military-aged males in strike zones as possible combatants, media outlets have inadvertently drawn attention to another major misstep in the administration’s counter-terrorism strategy: its refusal to differentiate between local insurgencies with nationalist goals and groups focused on global terrorism.
Islamic nationalist movements over the last 20 years have found it beneficial to pledge allegiance to the broader al-Qaeda movement, which has provided them with access to a well defined financing network and to highly experienced operatives who are able to train their fighters. General Carter Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, highlighted this pattern recently, arguing that al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb are sharing funds and training on how to use bombs. Unfortunately, American policymakers today fail to differentiate between nationalist movements and global terrorist groups. This lack of nuance is likely to lead to increased U.S. military involvement in domestic conflicts and enhanced cooperation between armed Islamic groups with previously disparate agendas. Read more
By Francisco Martin-Rayo
Though Yemen’s internal politics have changed dramatically since January 2011, U.S. strategy there has remained single-mindedly focused on eradicating al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). Democracy promotion, and the hopes of millions of Yemenis who supported the revolution, do not appear to be among the Obama Administration’s concerns in the country. Read more
By Ashraf Hegazy
Executive Director, Dubai Initiative, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
The death of Muammar Gadhafi, as well as that of his son and his closest advisor, in addition to the fall of Sirte, allows the Transitional National Council to declare Libya’s freedom. However, it does not guarantee a peaceful transition any more than Saddam’s capture did in Iraq. The tough work of nation building and the creation of an inclusive political system will now begin. And while analysts have been concerned about the divisions that have recently emerged within the TNC, those divisions are a sign that the TNC is a truly diverse institution, bringing together a wide coalition of ideologies and interests. That is as good a start for the establishment of a democratic system as we can hope for. Read more
Richard A. Clarke
The successful strike on Al Awlaki today is yet another success in Obama’s greatly expanded counter-terrorism offensive and his use of armed UAVs as the center of that campaign. The death of the American citizen cleric is notable, too, because of the legal implications. The President, in effect, ordered the execution of an American citizen overseas, one who may not have been indicted in a US court (although he probably could have been). The legal point here is that the American citizen had joined a foreign army engaged in hostilities with the US and thus became a target for US military and intelligence activity just as if some citizen had joined the Wehrmacht in World War II. Read more
By Richard Clarke
Having wandered recently among the orange-red dunes of the Arabian desert, my mind is filled with analogies about shifting sands, blurred vision, and the stark clarity that can come when the winds settle down. The winds on this peninsula and in the nearby Sahara are still blowing, the new dunes still being formed, but we can say some things about the shape of the Arab world that will emerge.
Unless the United States and its Arab allies are unusually diligent, skilled, and lucky, the new configuration will be less supportive of US interests, at least in the short term. That is not a judgment about what we should have done or should do now, nor is it meant to be a justification for the regimes that are being swept from power. It is meant only to be an analytical conclusion. Read more