Obama’s Human Rights Record a Disappointment

One year into their term in office, the Obama administration’s record on human rights has been a major disappointment.

In part because the Bush administration abused the promotion of democracy and human rights to rationalize its militaristic policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has at times been reluctant to be a forceful advocate for those struggling against oppression. For example, Obama was cautious in supporting the ongoing freedom struggle in Iran, in part because he believes that more overt advocacy could set back what he sees as the more critical issue of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He is also aware of how the history of U.S. interventionism in that country, overt threats of “regime change” by the previous administration, and the U.S. invasion of two neighboring countries in the name of promoting democracy could lead to a nationalist reaction to such grandstanding. (Despite this caution, however, the Iranian regime has falsely accused Obama of guiding the massive pro-democracy movement that is challenging the increasingly repressive rule in that country.)

Harder to defend is Obama’s continuation of the Bush administration’s policy of arming and training security forces in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Jordan and other dictatorial regimes in the region.

During his highly anticipated address in Cairo last June, Obama failed to praise his autocratic host, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He also invited leading critics of the regime, including secular liberals and moderate Islamists, to witness his speech. On the other hand, he refused to criticize the Mubarak regime, acknowledge its autocratic nature, or address any concern over its thousands of political prisoners — even when pushed to do so in a BBC interview. Indeed, Egyptian grassroots pro-democracy group Kefaya chose to boycott the speech, demanding that Obama show his commitment to democracy in deeds, not just words. Obama’s foreign aid budget includes over $1.5 billion in unconditional aid to the Mubarak dictatorship. And Washington didn’t publicly express concern when Egyptian police attacked American human rights activists attempting to deliver relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip last month.

Most of the opposition to Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan has been based on cost and the dubious prospects of victory. But there is concern that the government for which Americans are expected to fight and die is a serious abuser of human rights. Not only did U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai steal the most recent presidential election, but his cabinet includes a number of notorious warlords who have engaged in serious crimes against humanity. Furthermore, U.S.-backed Afghan security forces have engaged in gross and systematic human rights violations, and U.S. bomb and missile attacks killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan since Obama assumed office.

Similarly, U.S. forces remain in Iraq, and billions of dollars support the sectarian regime despite ongoing violations of human rights by Baghdad’s rulers. The recent dismissal of charges against U.S. Blackwater mercenaries, who massacred 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad’s Al-Nusur Square, and the Obama administration’s refusal to extradite them to face justice have also raised concerns regarding the U.S. commitment to basic human rights.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Obama administration rejected calls by Amnesty International and other human rights groups to suspend military aid to Israel following its use of U.S. weaponry against civilian targets in last year’s war on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in more than 700 civilian deaths, over 300 of whom were children. Even worse, Obama has pledged to increase military aid over and above the more than $10 billion provided to the Israelis by the Bush administration. The Obama administration called on Israel to freeze expansion of its colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and threatened to cut planned loan guarantees to the Israeli government if it continues to refuse. But Obama still rejects conditioning direct aid and has similarly refused to call on Israel to withdraw from the its illegal settlements, as required under international humanitarian law and confirmed through a series of UN Security Council resolutions.

When the UN Human Rights Council investigation led by Richard Goldstone documented war crimes by both Hamas and the Israeli government — confirming previous investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others — the Obama administration rejected the commission’s findings, calling them “deeply flawed.” Rather than challenge the content of the meticulously documented 575-page report, U.S. officials instead issued strong but vague critiques. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was particularly critical of the report’s recommendation that Palestinians and Israelis suspected of war crimes should be tried before the International Criminal Court. “Our view is that we need to be focused on the future,” she argued.

The human rights community was initially pleased when Obama appointed Michael Posner, cofounder and director of Human Rights First, as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. However, Crowley took the lead in quashing the Goldstone Commission report, insisting it “should not be used as a mechanism to add impediments to getting back to the peace process.” Ironically, just weeks earlier, the Obama administration argued during a UN debate on Darfur that war crimes charges should never be sacrificed for political reasons.

The Obama administration has shown a lack of concern for democracy and human rights outside the Middle East as well. Washington initially raised objections to the coup in Honduras that ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. But then Obama — in opposition to virtually the entire hemisphere — recognized the November elections that took place under a censured media, widespread political repression, and a boycott by pro-democracy forces. The administration also pledged to continue sending over half a billion dollars of aid annually to the Colombian regime, despite its notoriously poor human rights record. It even signed an agreement that allows U.S. forces to be stationed at seven military bases across that country. Though ostensibly the focus is to curb the drug trade, such aid has also been used in broader counterinsurgency efforts that have serious human rights consequences.

Rejecting calls by liberal Democratic members of Congress, leading human rights groups, Pope Benedict XVI, and most of the international community to participate, the Obama administration decided to boycott the UN Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva. And most disturbingly, the Obama administration decided to continue the Bush administration’s policy of remaining one of the few nations in the world to refuse to sign the international treaty banning landmines, completing its review process in secret without allowing for any input from human rights organizations.

Despite all this, there have been some gestures in support of individual human rights activists. For example, in an unprecedented move, the White House hosted the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, with Obama personally honoring this year’s recipients, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, who have been struggling for human rights under the repressive Mugabe regime. The White House also intervened on behalf of the 2008 winner, Western Saharan nonviolent activist Aminatou Haidar, as she verged on death from a hunger strike following expulsion from her country by Moroccan occupation authorities. The Obama administration has failed, however, to demand that Morocco honor a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a World Court ruling allowing the people of Western Sahara the right of self-determination.

To Obama’s credit, there is now a subtle but important shift in the U.S. government’s discourse on human rights. The Bush administration pushed a rather superficial structuralist view of human rights. It focused, for instance, on elections — which can easily be rigged and manipulated in many cases — in order to change certain governments for purposes of expanding U.S. power and influence. Obama has taken more of an agency view of human rights, emphasizing the rights of free expression, particularly the right of protest, and recognizing that human rights reform can only come from below and not through imposed means.

In the short term, however, Obama’s failure to more boldly address human rights concerns has alienated much of Obama’s progressive base of support. The right wing, meanwhile, disingenuously portrays Obama as retreating from his predecessor’s supposed support for democracy and human rights. Although the Bush administration provided even more assistance to governments engaged in human rights abuses and used pro-democracy rhetoric largely as a ruse for empire, Obama’s lukewarm support for human rights has enabled right-wingers to seize the moral high ground. As a result, the perceived weakness of the Obama administration’s human rights record raises important ethical and political questions.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/obamas-grade-on-human-rig_b_435719.html

Human Rights: C+

The Obama administration’s record on human rights has been a major disappointment.

In part because the Bush administration abused the promotion of democracy and human rights to rationalize its militaristic policies in the Middle East and elsewhere, the Obama administration has at times been reluctant to be a forceful advocate for those struggling against oppression. For example, Obama was cautious in supporting the ongoing freedom struggle in Iran, in part because he believes that more overt advocacy could set back what he sees as the more critical issue of curbing Iran’s nuclear ambitions. He is also aware of how the history of U.S. interventionism in that country, overt threats of “regime change” by the previous administration, and the U.S. invasion of two neighboring countries in the name of promoting democracy could lead to a nationalist reaction to such grandstanding. (Despite this caution, however, the Iranian regime has falsely accused Obama of guiding the massive pro-democracy movement that is challenging the increasingly repressive rule in that country.)

Harder to defend is Obama’s continuation of the Bush administration’s policy of arming and training security forces in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Jordan and other dictatorial regimes in the region.

During his highly anticipated address in Cairo last June, Obama failed to praise his autocratic host, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. He also invited leading critics of the regime, including secular liberals and moderate Islamists, to witness his speech. On the other hand, he refused to criticize the Mubarak regime, acknowledge its autocratic nature, or address any concern over its thousands of political prisoners — even when pushed to do so in a BBC interview. Indeed, Egyptian grassroots pro-democracy group Kefaya chose to boycott the speech, demanding that Obama show his commitment to democracy in deeds, not just words. Obama’s foreign aid budget includes over $1.5 billion in unconditional aid to the Mubarak dictatorship. And Washington didn’t publicly express concern when Egyptian police attacked American human rights activists attempting to deliver relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip last month.

Most of the opposition to Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan has been based on cost and the dubious prospects of victory. But there is concern that the government for which Americans are expected to fight and die is a serious abuser of human rights. Not only did U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai steal the most recent presidential election, but his cabinet includes a number of notorious warlords who have engaged in serious crimes against humanity. Furthermore, U.S.-backed Afghan security forces have engaged in gross and systematic human rights violations, and U.S. bomb and missile attacks killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan since Obama assumed office.

Similarly, U.S. forces remain in Iraq, and billions of dollars support the sectarian regime despite ongoing violations of human rights by Baghdad’s rulers. The recent dismissal of charges against U.S. Blackwater mercenaries, who massacred 17 unarmed civilians in Baghdad’s Al-Nusur Square, and the Obama administration’s refusal to extradite them to face justice have also raised concerns regarding the U.S. commitment to basic human rights.

Elsewhere in the Middle East, the Obama administration rejected calls by Amnesty International and other human rights groups to suspend military aid to Israel following its use of U.S. weaponry against civilian targets in last year’s war on the Gaza Strip, which resulted in more than 700 civilian deaths, over 300 of whom were children. Even worse, Obama has pledged to increase military aid over and above the more than $10 billion provided to the Israelis by the Bush administration. The Obama administration called on Israel to freeze expansion of its colonization efforts in the occupied West Bank and threatened to cut planned loan guarantees to the Israeli government if it continues to refuse. But Obama still rejects conditioning direct aid and has similarly refused to call on Israel to withdraw from the its illegal settlements, as required under international humanitarian law and confirmed through a series of UN Security Council resolutions.

When the UN Human Rights Council investigation led by Richard Goldstone documented war crimes by both Hamas and the Israeli government — confirming previous investigations by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and others — the Obama administration rejected the commission’s findings, calling them “deeply flawed.” Rather than challenge the content of the meticulously documented 575-page report, U.S. officials instead issued strong but vague critiques. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice was particularly critical of the report’s recommendation that Palestinians and Israelis suspected of war crimes should be tried before the International Criminal Court. “Our view is that we need to be focused on the future,” she argued.

The human rights community was initially pleased when Obama appointed Michael Posner, cofounder and director of Human Rights First, as Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights. However, Posner took the lead in quashing the Goldstone Commission report, insisting it “should not be used as a mechanism to add impediments to getting back to the peace process.” Ironically, just weeks earlier, the Obama administration argued during a UN debate on Darfur that war crimes charges should never be sacrificed for political reasons.

The Obama administration has shown a lack of concern for democracy and human rights outside the Middle East as well. Washington initially raised objections to the coup in Honduras that ousted democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya. But then Obama — in opposition to virtually the entire hemisphere — recognized the November elections that took place under a censured media, widespread political repression, and a boycott by pro-democracy forces. The administration also pledged to continue sending over half a billion dollars of aid annually to the Colombian regime, despite its notoriously poor human rights record. It even signed an agreement that allows U.S. forces to be stationed at seven military bases across that country. Though ostensibly the focus is to curb the drug trade, such aid has also been used in broader counterinsurgency efforts that have serious human rights consequences.

Rejecting calls by liberal Democratic members of Congress, leading human rights groups, Pope Benedict XVI, and most of the international community to participate, the Obama administration decided to boycott the UN Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance in Geneva. And most disturbingly, the Obama administration decided to continue the Bush administration’s policy of remaining one of the few nations in the world to refuse to sign the international treaty banning landmines, completing its review process in secret without allowing for any input from human rights organizations.

Despite all this, there have been some gestures in support of individual human rights activists. For example, in an unprecedented move, the White House hosted the 2009 Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, with Obama personally honoring this year’s recipients, Women of Zimbabwe Arise, who have been struggling for human rights under the repressive Mugabe regime. The White House also intervened on behalf of the 2008 winner, Western Saharan nonviolent activist Aminatou Haidar, as she verged on death from a hunger strike following expulsion from her country by Moroccan occupation authorities. The Obama administration has failed, however, to demand that Morocco honor a series of UN Security Council resolutions and a World Court ruling allowing the people of Western Sahara the right of self-determination.

To Obama’s credit, there is now a subtle but important shift in the U.S. government’s discourse on human rights. The Bush administration pushed a rather superficial structuralist view of human rights. It focused, for instance, on elections — which can easily be rigged and manipulated in many cases — in order to change certain governments for purposes of expanding U.S. power and influence. Obama has taken more of an agency view of human rights, emphasizing the rights of free expression, particularly the right of protest, and recognizing that human rights reform can only come from below and not through imposed means.

In the short term, however, Obama’s failure to more boldly address human rights concerns have alienated much of Obama’s progressive base of support. The right wing, meanwhile, disingenuously portrays Obama as retreating from his predecessor’s supposed support for democracy and human rights. Although the Bush administration provided even more assistance to governments engaged in human rights abuses and used pro-democracy rhetoric largely as a ruse for empire, Obama’s lukewarm support for human rights has enabled right-wingers to seize the moral high ground. As a result, the perceived weakness of the Obama administration’s human rights record raises important ethical and political questions.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/human_rights_c

60 Second Expert: The U.S. in Yemen

Much attention has recently been focused on the poverty-stricken country of Yemen. The planning of the Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight by al-Qaeda members in Yemen and other incidents have revealed that al-Qaeda cells in Yemen represents a genuine threat. However, if the U.S. yet seeks a military solution to a complex political, social and economic situation, however, it could prove disastrous to both Yemen and U.S. security interests.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world. Forty percent of Yemenis are unemployed and live on a per capita income of $600 per year. As a result, though there is much need for sustainable economic development in the country, most U.S. aid has been military particularly since the growing prominence of al-Qaeda in the country.

As Washington contemplates whether or not to increase its military role in Yemen, it must keep in mind that Yemen is one of the most complex societies in the world with considerable tribal divisions and political rivalries, including two other major insurgencies unrelated to al-Qaeda. Thus, sending U.S. forces or increasing the number of U.S. drone strikes carries serious risks. Such actions could result in the expansion of armed resistance, and the strengthening of Islamist militants and anti-American sentiment.

Any military action against al-Qaeda and Islamists should be Yemeni-led. Washington should also press Yemen’s increasingly autocratic government to become more democratic and less corrupt. There should also be a significant increase in development aid for the poorest rural communities that have essentially served as havens for radical Islamists and the growth of al -Qaeda’s presence in Yemen.

http://www.fpif.org/articles/US_in_Yemen

Yemen: The Latest U.S. Battleground

The United States may be on the verge of involvement in yet another counterinsurgency war which, as is the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, may make a bad situation even worse. The attempted Christmas Day bombing of a Northwest Airlines flight by a Nigerian man was apparently planned in Yemen. There were alleged ties between the perpetrator of the Ft. Hood massacre and a radical Yemeni cleric, and an ongoing U.S.-backed Yemeni military offensive against al-Qaeda have all focused U.S. attention on that country.

Yemen has almost as large a population as Saudi Arabia, but differently lacks much in the way of natural resources. What little oil the country has is rapidly being depleted. Indeed, Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world, with a per-capita income of less than $600 per year. More than 40 percent of the population is unemployed and the economic situation is increasingly deteriorating for most Yemenis as a result of a U.S.-backed structural adjustment program imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

The county is desperate for assistance in sustainable economic development. The vast majority of U.S. aid delivered to the country, however, has been in the form of military assets. The limited economic assistance made available has been of dubious effectiveness and has largely gone through corrupt government channels.

Al-Qaeda’s Rise

The United States has long been concerned about the presence of al-Qaeda operatives within Yemen’s porous borders, particularly since the recent unification of the Yemeni and Saudi branches of the terrorist network. Thousands of Yemenis participated in the U.S.-supported anti-Soviet resistance in Afghanistan during the 1980s, becoming radicalized by the experience and developing links with Osama bin Laden, a Saudi whose father comes from a Yemeni family. Various tribal loyalties to bin Laden’s family have led to some support within Yemen for the exiled al-Qaeda leader, even among those who do not necessarily support his reactionary interpretation of Islam or his terrorist tactics. Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis have served as migrant laborers in neighboring Saudi Arabia. There, exposure to the hardline Wahhabi interpretation of Islam dominant in that country combined with widespread repression and discrimination has led to further radicalization.

In October 2000, al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the U.S. Navy ship Cole in the Yemeni port of Aden, killing 17 American sailors. This led to increased cooperation between U.S. and Yemeni military and intelligence, including a series of U.S. missile attacks against suspected al-Qaeda operatives.

Currently, hardcore al-Qaeda terrorists in Yemen — many of whom are foreigners — probably number no more than 200. But they are joined by roughly 2,000 battle-hardened Yemeni militants who have served time in Iraq fighting U.S. occupation forces. The swelling of al-Qaeda’s ranks by veterans of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s Iraqi insurgency has led to the rise of a substantially larger and more extreme generation of fighters, who have ended the uneasy truce between Islamic militants and the Yemeni government.

Opponents of the 2003 U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq correctly predicted that the inevitable insurgency would create a new generation of radical jihadists, comparable to the one that emerged following the Soviet invasion and occupation of Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Bush administration and its congressional supporters — including then-senators Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton — believed that a U.S. takeover of Iraq was more important than avoiding the risk of creating of a hotbed of anti-American terrorism. Ironically, President Obama is relying on Biden and Clinton — as well as Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, another supporter of the U.S. invasion and occupation — to help us get out of this mess they helped create.

Not a Failed State

Yemen is one of the most complex societies in the world, and any kind of overreaction by the United States — particularly one that includes a strong military component — could be disastrous. Bringing in U.S. forces or increasing the number of U.S. missile strikes would likely strengthen the size and radicalization of extremist elements. Instead of recognizing the strong and longstanding Yemeni tradition of respecting tribal autonomy, U.S. officials appear to be misinterpreting this lack of central government control as evidence of a “failed state.” The U.S. approach has been to impose central control by force, through a large-scale counterinsurgency strategy.

Such a military response could result in an ever-wider insurgency, however. Indeed, such overreach by the government is what largely prompted the Houthi rebellion in the northern part of the country, led by adherents of the Zaydi branch of Shia Islam. The United States has backed a brutal crackdown by Yemeni and Saudi forces in the Houthi region, largely accepting exaggerated claims of Iranian support for the rebellion. There is also a renewal of secessionist activity in the formerly independent south. These twin threats are largely responsible for the delay in the Yemeni government’s response to the growing al-Qaeda presence in their country.

With the United States threatening more direct military intervention in Yemen to root out al-Qaeda, the Yemeni government’s crackdown may be less a matter of hoping for something in return for its cooperation than a fear of what may happen if it does not. The Yemeni government is in a difficult bind, however. If it doesn’t break up the terrorist cells, the likely U.S. military intervention would probably result in a greatly expanded armed resistance. If the government casts too wide a net, however, it risks tribal rebellion and other civil unrest for what will be seen as unjustifiable repression at the behest of a Western power. Either way, it would likely increase support for extremist elements, which both the U.S. and Yemeni governments want destroyed.

For this reason, most Western experts on Yemen agree that increased U.S. intervention carries serious risks. This would not only result in a widespread armed backlash within Yemen. Such military intervention by the United States in yet another Islamic country in the name of “anti-terrorism” would likely strengthen Islamist militants elsewhere as well.

Cold War Pawn

As with previous U.S. military interventions, most Americans have little understanding of the targeted country or its history.

Yemen was divided for most of the 20th century. South Yemen, which received its independence from Great Britain in 1967 after years of armed anti-colonial resistance, resulted from a merger between the British colony of Aden and the British protectorate of South Arabia. Declaring itself the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, it became the Arab world’s only Marxist-Leninist state and developed close ties with the Soviet Union. As many as 300,000 South Yemenis fled to the north in the years following independence.

North Yemen, independent since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918, became embroiled in a bloody civil war during the 1960s between Saudi-backed royalist forces and Egyptian-backed republican forces. The republican forces eventually triumphed, though political instability, military coups, assassinations, and periodic armed uprisings continued.

In both countries, ancient tribal and modern ideological divisions have made control of these disparate armed forces virtually impossible. Major segments of the national armies would periodically disintegrate, with soldiers bringing their weapons home with them. Lawlessness and chaos have been common for decades, with tribes regularly shifting loyalties in both their internal feuds and their alliances with their governments. Many tribes have been in a permanent state of war for years, and almost every male adolescent and adult routinely carries a rifle.

In 1979, in one of the more absurd episodes of the Cold War, a minor upsurge in fighting along the former border led to a major U.S. military mobilization in response to what the Carter administration called a Soviet-sponsored act of international aggression. In March of that year, South Yemeni forces, in support of some North Yemeni guerrillas, shelled some North Yemeni government positions. In response, Carter ordered the aircraft carrier Constellation and a flotilla of warships to the Arabian Sea as a show of force. Bypassing congressional approval, the administration rushed nearly $499 million worth of modern weaponry to North Yemen, including 64 M-60 tanks, 70 armored personnel carriers, and 12 F-5E aircraft. Included were an estimated 400 American advisers and 80 Taiwanese pilots for the sophisticated warplanes that no Yemeni knew how to fly.

This gross overreaction to a local conflict led to widespread international criticism. Indeed, the Soviets were apparently unaware of the border clashes and the fighting died down within a couple of weeks. Development groups were particularly critical of this U.S. attempt to send such expensive high-tech weaponry to a country with some of the highest rates of infant mortality, chronic disease, and illiteracy in the world.

The communist regime in South Yemen collapsed in the 1980s, when rival factions of the Politburo and Central Committee killed each other and their supporters by the thousands. With the southern leadership decimated, the two countries merged in May 1990. The newly united country’s democratic constitution gave Yemen one of the most genuinely representative governments in the region.

Later in 1990, when serving as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Yemen voted against the U.S.-led effort to authorize the use of force against Iraq to drive its occupation forces from Kuwait. A U.S. representative was overheard declaring to the Yemeni ambassador, “That was the most expensive ‘no’ vote you ever cast.” The United States immediately withdrew $70 million in foreign aid to Yemen while dramatically increasing aid to neighboring dictatorships that supported the U.S.-led war effort. Over the next several years, apparently upset with the dangerous precedent of a democratic Arab neighbor, the U.S.-backed regime in Saudi Arabia engaged in a series of attacks against Yemen along its disputed border.

Renewed Violence and Repression

In 1994, ideological and regional clan-based rivalries led to a brief civil war, with the south temporarily seceding and the government mobilizing some of the jihadist veterans of the Afghan war to fight the leftist rebellion.

After crushing the southern secessionists, the government of President Ali Abdullah Saleh became increasingly authoritarian. U.S. support resumed and aid increased. Unlike most U.S. allies in the region, direct elections for the president and parliament have continued, but they have hardly been free or fair. Saleh officially received an unlikely 94 percent of the vote in the 1999 election. And in the most recently election, in 2006, government and police were openly pushing for Saleh’s re-election amid widespread allegations of voter intimidation, ballot-rigging, vote-buying, and registration fraud. Just two days before the vote, Saleh announced the arrest on “terrorism” charges a campaign official of his leading opponent. Since that time, human rights abuses and political repression — including unprecedented attacks on independent media — have increased dramatically.

Obama was elected president as the candidate who promised change, including a shift away from the foreign policy that had led to such disastrous policies in Iraq and elsewhere. In Yemen, his administration appears to be pursuing the same short-sighted tactics as its predecessors: support of a repressive and autocratic regime, pursuit of military solutions to complex social and political conflicts, and reliance on failed counterinsurgency doctrines.

Al-Qaeda in Yemen represents a genuine threat. However, any military action should be Yemeni-led and targeted only at the most dangerous terrorist cells. We must also press the Yemeni government to become more democratic and less corrupt, in order to gain the support needed to suppress dangerous armed elements. In the long term, the United States should significantly increase desperately needed development aid for the poorest rural communities that have served as havens for radical Islamists. Such a strategy would be far more effective than drone attacks, arms transfers, and counterinsurgency.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stephen-zunes/yemen-the-latest-us-battl_b_416314.html