It was a contradiction that perfectly captured the essence of the U.S. drone war against Islamic terrorists: Just as we learned that strikes in Yemen had resumed after a three-month hiatus, a Yemeni journalist gave heart- rending congressional testimony about an attack that killed five in his village of Wessab.
“The drone strike and its impact tore my heart, much as the tragic bombings in Boston last week tore your hearts and also mine,” Farea al-Muslimi told a Senate judiciary subcommittee on human rights last month. “The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis.”
There are good reasons the U.S. has made Yemen a central front against jihadis: It was where the plot was hatched to blow up a U.S. jetliner over Detroit on Christmas 2009 and the base for the propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki, the U.S. citizen killed in a drone strike in 2011.
Unfortunately, the effort’s destabilizing effect has given that divided nation, long the poorest in the Arab world, the additional distinction of being the most likely to collapse. That would be both a tragedy for its citizens and a golden opportunity for al-Qaeda to establish a haven similar to Afghanistan in the 1990s.
So, what can the wealthy Persian Gulf states, the U.S. and its allies do to keep Yemen from failing?