Who is Ruling Yemen?
Gregory Johnsen, a former Fulbright Fellow in Yemen, is currently a Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. Johnsen has written for a variety of publications on Yemen including, among others, Foreign Policy, The American Interest, The Independent, The Boston Globe, and The National. He is the co-founder of Waq al-Waq: Islam and Insurgency in Yemen Blog. In 2009, he was a member of the USAID's conflict assessment team for Yemen.
Over the past couple of days as the international media has once again focused on the bloody fighting in Sanaa, they have invariably asked themselves, Yemenis, and outside observers the one question that no one knows: who is ruling Yemen?
It is a simple question, but sometimes simple questions can be the most difficult.
The problem with this one is that it assumes Yemen is a state like we in the west tend to think of states, but it isn't and maybe it never was (although that is a topic for a different post)/
The vast majority of the coverage over the past couple of days has centered on Sanaa, which makes sense. That is where most of the violence is and that is where most of the journalists are.
There has also been coverage, in the Arabic press, of other protests centers, cities like Taizz, Hudaydah, Dhammar and so on.
But as I mentioned yesterday this is only part of the story - one of the many Yemens at play at the moment.
This is the Yemen, this central region centered on Sanaa, that we along with the media have come to think of as the Yemen. This is where Ahmad Ali, the president's eldest son, and a series of cousins, brothers and other clan members are defending the property of their patriarch and their clan by trying to hold onto the state against people like Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar, the defected general, and the ten sons of the late Shaykh Abdullah al-Ahmar.
For their part, the protesters are eager to see Salih and his sons removed, but none of them want to replace one Hashid tribesman president with another. Yemen's revolution has become a messy fight for power, riches, and survival at the top while those on the bottom struggle to survive.
This is the main narrative at the moment, and it is one that is well-known. No one is really in charge in the sense that they can impose their will on other, dissenting groups. But a number of people have enough power to effectively veto - through force of arms - any deal they don't like, which is one of the reasons we have a precarious peace that, over the last couple of days, has tipped back to war.
But there are other Yemens, many other Yemens, that we hear and know little about. Up in the north, on the border with Saudi Arabia, in what the maps tell us is still part of Yemen, the Huthis are effectively running the show.
Although the Saudis, as the Saudis like to do in Yemen, are freelancing and trying to stir up trouble by paying tribesmen to fight the Huthis. Saudi has tried this approach a number of times over the past several years and it has yet to work, but the elderly princes still seem to think it might.
Other Yemens have other leaders - in the Abyan we're all aware of the Islamic militants linked to AQAP who are trying to take and seize territory.
Why they are doing that is, at least for me, not understood very well. After bin Laden's death, the US leaked quotes that suggested AQAP had asked bin Laden about trying to take over towns and he told them not to, precisely because they would be such easy targets for air strikes. (But, as we learned from Counterstrike, it is almost impossible to know if that was disinformation from the US government or actual intelligence.)
Other places in the south have other individuals and groups attempting to seize power.
There is no longer a just a single Yemen - different groups rule different parts of the country. And at this stage the question we should be asking is: can whatever or whoever comes after Salih ever reclaim the territory the state is giving up now?
Because thinking through the answer to that question is what will prepare the US and the international community to deal with what comes next in Yemen.
Swiss researchers identify new dangers of modern cocaine.
- Cocaine cut with anti-worming adulterant levamisole may cause brain damage.
- Levamisole can thin out the prefrontal cortex and affect cognitive skills.
- Government health programs should encourage testing of cocaine for purity.
Civil discourse has fallen to an all time low.
The question that the American populace needs to ask itself now is: how do we fix it?
Discursive fundamentals need to be taught to preserve free expression
In their findings the authors state:
upholding First Amendment ideals.
Talking politics at Thanksgiving dinner
- Progressive Activists: younger, highly engaged, secular, cosmopolitan, angry.
- Traditional Liberals: older, retired, open to compromise, rational, cautious.
- Passive Liberals: unhappy, insecure, distrustful, disillusioned.
- Politically Disengaged: young, low income, distrustful, detached, patriotic, conspiratorial
- Moderates: engaged, civic-minded, middle-of-the-road, pessimistic, Protestant.
- Traditional Conservatives: religious, middle class, patriotic, moralistic.
- Devoted Conservatives: white, retired, highly engaged, uncompromising,
It's interesting to note the authors found that:
"Tribe membership shows strong reliability in predicting views across different political topics."
Here are some statistics on differing viewpoints according to political party:
- 51% of staunch liberals say it's "morally acceptable" to punch Nazis.
- 53% of Republicans favor stripping U.S. citizenship from people who burn the American flag.
- 65% of Republicans say NFL players should be fired if they refuse to stand for the anthem.
- 58% of Democrats say employers should punish employees for offensive Facebook posts.
- 47% of Republicans favor bans on building new mosques.
Here are some guidelines for civic discourse that might come in handy:
- Practice inclusion and listen to who you're speaking to.
Civic discourse in the divisive age
dangerously tribal, fueled by a culture of outrage and taking offense. For the combatants,
the other side can no longer be tolerated, and no price is too high to defeat them.
These tensions are poisoning personal relationships, consuming our politics and
putting our democracy in peril.
Once a country has become tribalized, debates about contested issues from
immigration and trade to economic management, climate change and national security,
become shaped by larger tribal identities. Policy debate gives way to tribal conflicts.
Polarization and tribalism are self-reinforcing and will likely continue to accelerate.
The work of rebuilding our fragmented society needs to start now. It extends from
re-connecting people across the lines of division in local communities all the way to
building a renewed sense of national identity: a bigger story of us."
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