Thursday, June 14, 2012

NEWS BLOG: The presidential campaign and our war on terror in Yemen

Posted By on Thu, Jun 14, 2012 at 1:55 PM

If you haven't read Ibrahim Mothana's "How Drones Help Al Qaeda" in today's New York Times, do so.

Mothana is an activist and writer in Yemen, and in his Times article, he argues that the Obama administration's use of drones in Yemen is doing far more harm than good. It is, Mothana writes, "leading to the Talibanization of vast tribal areas and the radicalization of people who could otherwise be America's allies in the fight against terrorism in Yemen."

US anti-terrorism policy ought to be a key discussion in this year's presidential election. But if it is, I doubt that the discussion will be a rational one; Republicans have made it clear that they want to ramp up the reliance on the military, and some Democrats seem inclined to agree with them, whether out of conviction or fear for their own skins. And yet many foreign-policy experts (not to mention on-site observers like Mothana) warn that our military action, including our drone attacks, is killing innocent civilians, serving as a recruitment tool rather than effective anti-terrorism measures.

Hawks will portray that kind of language as weakness, and in tight races for the House, the Senate, and the presidency, candidates may find it hard to fight that argument.

In his 2008 presidential campaign - and in some of his early appointments - President Obama seemed eager to take us down a different path. But that was then.

A friend asked me last night whether, given my concern about Obama's anti-terrorism policy, I would still vote for him. Of course; of course. But I'll do it with a certain amount of sadness that my vote endorses, in effect, a policy that likely does more harm than good, to countries like Yemen, and to us.

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