You are currently browsing Sam's articles.
With Yemen on everybody’s minds these days, a lot of not so accurate information is being presented in the press. The statistics about Yemen’s huge number of guns per capita, the extent to which the Saleh government has control over the country, and many other facts and stats have been badly distorted. To help all of us, I’ve found two great links that address this issue specifically and help to clarify any less than accurate information.
First off, Former US Ambassador Edmund Hull wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times this week.
And, Gregory Johnsen over at the blog called Waq Al-Waq, a PhD candidate at Princeton, did a bloggingheads video interview with Mark Goldberg, who has a blog at the American Prospect.
Both address similar issues, but Johnsen goes into much greater detail. If you have the time to watch the whole thing, I found it to be very informative.
David Brooks has written a pretty celebratory op-ed in the New York Times about Israel’s high-tech economy and its ability to weather the global financial crisis. I have mixed feelings about his pretty unqualified optimism. Yes, its great that Israel’s economy is growing and increasing overall wealth in the Jewish state. It is undoubtedly raising the quality of life for many Israelis.
What Brooks misses in large part, however, is the phenomenon of the Israeli brain drain. Brooks alludes to it in passing when he says “American Jews used to keep a foothold in Israel in case things got bad here. Now Israelis keep a foothold in the U.S.” The problem is real, though. So many entrepreneurial, creative, and brilliant Israelis, those who possess great leadership potential, are leaving Israel or going into the private sector. This has left many crucial jobs–teachers, university professors, and government officials–in the hands of individuals we might not characterize as the best and brightest. Israeli discontent with their choice of candidates in Knesset elections is largely attributed to the fact that those who do possess the skills have chosen to lead their lives abroad.
I think we can celebrate Israel’s accomplishments. After all, many of the dreams of the Zionist ideal have been fulfilled. Brooks gets it right when he says:
The country was not founded so stray settlers could sit among thousands of angry Palestinians in Hebron. It was founded so Jews would have a safe place to come together and create things for the world.
And they have, but the first sentence of this excerpt cannot be ignored. When Israel catches up politically to its economic achievements, it will be a cause for complete and total celebration.
Anthony Shadid’s brief piece here made me chuckle.
I just read a great article on Haaretz’s website filed by the Associated Press. The US, assisted by Jordan, is attempting to re-invigorate stalled peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. For months now, the parties concerned and the US envoy, George Mitchell, have been bogged down in futile discussions over settlements in the West Bank and Eastern Jerusalem which the Palestinians want as a future capital.
Secretary of State Clinton and Jordanian Foreign minister Judeh today announced an American initiative that is attempting to circumvent the Palestinian precondition of a total and complete settlement freeze before resuming talks. Instead of waiting for that, the American proposal is to simply bypass the issue altogether and negotiate a border outline as well as the status of Jerusalem. Easier said than done, but this is exactly the kind of thinking that I believe will contribute to progress. While in the past Hillary Clinton has not been the most tactful American diplomat regarding the conflict (I’m thinking of her comments categorizing the partial settlement freeze as “unprecedented”), her comments today were right on the money:
“Resolving borders resolves settlements, resolving Jerusalem resolves settlements. I think we need to lift our sights and instead of being looking down at the trees, we need to look at the forest.”
Waiting for “final-status” talks to deal with these issues is counter-productive and with the two state solution on veritable life-support, strong American mediation that does not tolerate or pause for the rhetoric of Palestinian extremist factions or the Israeli right just might work.
Bernard Haykel has a really interesting opinion piece in The National, a daily newspaper based in Abu Dbabi, UAE. He analyzes the Saleh regime’s clientelist nature, its complex relationship with extremist Jihadi-Salafis, and the necessity of action not from the United States, but from other Gulf states.
On the Saleh regime, this quote is most instructive:
After three decades of bad governance, Yemen remains one of the poorest countries in the world. It suffers from all the ills of underdevelopment: an unrestrained demographic explosion, non-existent or poor social services, depletion of underground water and oil resources, rampant corruption, authoritarian and unaccountable government and, finally, the official promotion of an intolerant version of Sunni Islam not too dissimilar from that of al Qa’eda.
Yemen seems to be an impenetrable quagmire at times. To be sure, any progress in that country will require skillful diplomacy and a highly nuanced understanding of Yemen’s tribes and religious sects.
In the wake of the Christmas Day plot that targeted a Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit, Yemen’s presence in the Western media has skyrocketed. In his latest post, Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy has an excellent piece about why overly hawkish responses to the attempted plot would be a grave mistake on the part of the Western World. Yemen is a country of destitute poverty. Its oil reserves will run dry by 2016, and its supply of potable water is dripping to a standstill. Moreover, it is a very conservative country that is extraordinarily tribal in nature. It is highly suspicious of its own government in Sana’a(rightfully so, Ali Abdullah Saleh has been the veritable “prince” of Yemen since 1990 and ruled North Yemen from 1978 onward), let alone that of the United States. I’ll leave it to Lynch to get into the nitty gritty about why entangling ourselves in Yemen or only providing military aid will further alienate the West from Yemen and exacerbate the tension there.
Matthew Yglesias also has a quick post on recurring attacks on the Obama administration’s response to the Yemen situation by Hawks in the US. He says we should discredit them. Aren’t their policies of intervention and hawkish dialogue the very same ones that have been widely discredited by the academic community, the american people, and international consensus?