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Yemen: No Winners But Who Actually Loses?

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Joe Biden has taken a lot of stick for the disorganised withdrawal from Afghanistan, and for his comment that “After 20 years I’ve learned the hard way that there is never a good time to withdraw US forces”. However he was absolutely right – there would never have been a good time for the US to leave, because it should never have gone there in the first place.

Afghanistan is treated as a special case, a unique cautionary tale. But it is part of a pattern we see again and again, which evokes the same response again and again – “We know this never works, but why didn’t it work this time?”

Western countries in general—and the US in particular, take the view that everyone wants to be like them. They just have to roll up and promise the earth, and everyone will recognise their superiority, stop doing what they have done for centuries and embrace whatever the West wants to do for them, because it makes them better people.

However we can all name many trouble spots where the US has been involved. The reason they are trouble spots is because this self-image is just self-deception. Most people in most places do want what the US represents. But they don’t want what it actually does. Therefore conflicts the US seeks to end by its presence only intensify, as the US is perceived as taking away what people want, not providing it.

This is why it often takes so long for the US to get out of anywhere. It can’t just sort out problems and leave, because it doesn’t provide solutions people want. But it has to try and do that, or at least pretend to, to be mighty Uncle Sam, not just another country.

The worse the US makes things, the more it needs to be there to sort out its own mess, because if someone else did that, there wouldn’t be any need for the US any more. The US is not an ethnic or political autochthony but an idea, a dream binding at least some of its people together. Take away the dream, you take away the country, whilst most others have the homogeneity and good sense to survive regardless of invasion, oppression or disaster.

This is why the US is still involved in Yemen. The ostensible reason is to stop Iran gaining greater influence in the peninsula. The actual reason is because the US was rumbled in Yemen long ago, and cares much more about that than it ever will about who sponsors the latest Yemeni government.

The US has to be in Yemen because few know or care about the place. It is therefore ripe for both military and ideological conquest, just like Africa, with its rich history of sophisticated political structures practically unknown in the West, was to the Westerners with guns in the nineteenth century.

If the US can’t ride in and control Yemen, what chance does it have against places it has heard of? Uncle Sam has to walk tall till the last pack of chewing gum, and before the next dam breaks. The US can’t be beaten in a backwater by people preferring a different vision – because this preference, rather than terrorism, is the real threat........

© New Eastern Outlook

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