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Tuesday Papers: or how to save Yemen (Updated)

The news from Yemen is a bit thin today because a) newspapers keep getting banned and b) I’m still struggling to maneuver through al-Ghad and al-Hayat’s new formatting, both of which are worse than they were before.

But that shouldn’t stop us from posting (and going wildly off-topic). First, al-Tagheer takes a hit and is now blocked in Yemen.

There is also this interview that al-Ghad did with Ghalib al-Zayadi, whom it calls an al-Qaeda suspect. This may be putting it on a bit thick, as al-Zayadi was released, and this is his second interview he has given in the past several months (he also gave one to Mareb Press), but at least this one specifies that it was done over the phone. I would be wary of thinking that Ghalib speaks for al-Qaeda. There is an English round-up/summary here.

From time to time, I’m asked for specific steps on how to save Yemen. Sometimes from people who think they can impact things, sometimes from people who want to pressure others to change and sometime just from people at parties who have a strong and seemingly irrational desire to humor me. Regardless of my interlocutor, I invariably feel as though I disappoint in these conversations, failing to provide the individual with the nugget to fill in the preconceived blank in their head, even party people seem to have an idea that they are looking for me to confirm.

Part of the problem is that there is no magic checklist for Yemen, no matter how deep the desire. This is not just a problem for Yemen. John Nagl writes about this issue with regard to Clausewitz and his relevance to contemporary military theory, claiming that it was Clausewitz’s contemporary and intellectual nemesis, Antoine-Henri Jomini, that provided policymakers with a checklist while Clausewitz remained much too “subtle” a thinker to do so. (For me, subtlety of thought is a much more attractive spin to put on it as opposed to a mere lack of thought.)

But I was reminded of this yet again over the past several days in a series of e-mails, and then once more yesterday when I read Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Political Judgment.” It may seem more than a bit pedantic to suggest that those wanting to understand the difficulties of effecting change in Yemen should read Isaiah Berlin, but then what is the good of having a blog if one is unable to engage in self-indulgence.

Update: the interview link with al-Zayadi is now fixed.


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