Why the assassination of al-Awlaki is an insight into U.S. foreign policy rather than Yemeni domestic
Much has already been said about the death of Awlaki and how in the landscape of the Yemeni revolution, it is utterly inconsequential. Alternatively, some analyses have focused on the narrative of a government assassinating one of its’ own citizens without due process. What is certainly more alarming, albeit unsurprising, is the timing of it all. Upon Saleh’s return to Yemen, the U.S state department urged him to step down and allow Yemen to move on. If there were doubters of the sincerity of such a stance, they may have found their positions somewhat justified when only a few weeks later the U.S colluded with Saleh’s regime in the assassination of al-Awlaki. Whilst it may not be a direct acceptance of Saleh’s legitimacy, it suggests that the U.S still recognises his authority over elements of the state apparatus. That Saleh maintains a hold over parts of the state is unquestionable, however how can one consider the U.S’s calls for him to step down as genuine in light of this.
Critics, particularly on the left, have long considered U.S foreign policy as an utterly cynical and individualistic beast and in light of recent events, it is difficult to argue against. Whilst one may argue that if al-Awlaki provided a direct and immediate threat to U.S national security, swift action was necessary. But one can only flinch at the flagrant disregard shown for a tumultuous domestic situation, perhaps on the brink of civil war, in the U.S’s pursuit of its own national interest. Are there absolutely no moral boundaries to the conduct of U.S foreign policy? Will anyone truly be surprised if the U.S changes its’ stance on Assad in the event that an opposition figure even ventures to suggest that Israel’s occupation and disregard for international law is not justified.
The U.S’s continued War on Terror is a law unto itself. Despite his regime conducting what amounts to a massacre of peaceful protestors, the U.S has seen fit to give Saleh the chance to add another cog to his propaganda machine. As if now Saleh, despite the oppression, corruption and killings, has been given a lifeline because only he can aid the U.S in defeating the insatiable crocodile of militant Islam which pervades its’ deepest fears. It is hard not to believe that had Saleh truly willed, he could have pointed out al-Awlaki to U.S drones a long time ago. One is reminded of the reports which accused Pakistan’s intelligence of having long known of Osama Bin Laden’s presence in their midst, not acting on their knowledge because it would have perhaps caused a surge in militant opposition to the Pakistani government. Prior to his departure for Saudi Arabia, one could argue the same of Saleh’s regime in relation to al-Awlaki. Anyone evenly remotely familiar with U.S foreign policy over the last century or so, would find it hard to believe that Saleh’s return and the locating of al-Awlaki a matter of pure coincidence.
The U.S continues to play a risky hand at the table of foreign policy. Until it becomes completely apparent that the various dictators with whom they work can no longer be of any benefit to U.S foreign policy, they would much rather hold onto them. The downside (not including the often devastating effect upon civilians of other countries which U.S foreign policy doesn’t factor) is that the revolts across the Arab World may see the popular hostility towards cynical U.S foreign policy rise to the level of governance. This, for a region Eisenhower once described as ‘the most strategically important power in the world’ could see America’s foreign influence greatly diminished.
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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