From time to time I hear rumors, most of them I ignore but every so often - apparently - I blog about them. One thing that I've been hearing lately is that the US is looking at contingency plans for Yemen's collapse and looking to modify its Iraq/Afghanistan policy - I hesitate to call it a strategy - of dealing directly with the tribes. Basically, bypassing the central government and playing the modern version of rent-a-shaykh.

I hope this is not true, but if it is I must say it is a colossally stupid idea. I do not have the expertise to judge the success of such attempts in Iraq or Afghanistan, but such an approach does not have a great track record of success in Yemen. In fact, it has no record of success. Just ask the Saudis anytime from, well, the 1960s to today, or ask the Brits in the 1960s. Tribal leaders in Yemen would certainly take the money, but the US would get little return on its money.

Having allies and buying clients in Yemen does not translate into unqualified support or allegiance. Instead, the money and aid can only buy a type of passivity that is closer to silence and non-aggression than it is to support, and often not even that.