Osama bin Laden is dead, but Al Qaeda remains alive and well. Look at news reports coming out of Yemen. Al Qaeda is on the offensive.
The terrorist group has already set up a base in that Middle Eastern country. They have launched attacks against the U.S. and conditions are becoming much more suitable for them to operate.
Yemen is undergoing incredible instability with protesters demanding the removal of long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh. These protests are taking their toll on Yemen’s ability to cope with the growing Al Qaeda menace within its borders.
Reuters reported this morning that “Saleh’s sway over Yemen, long shaky in remote provinces where al Qaeda is most active, has weakened further as protests have gathered steam, with security forces and officials deserting large swathes of several provinces.”
CNN reports that Al Qaeda is expanding its presence in Yemen amid unstable government and discusses the ultimate breeding ground. According to Lara Logan of CBS news, Al Qaeda in Yemen is a significant threat to the United States.
What should we do? We can provide support to help stabilize Yemen so they can resist terrorism. But what kind of help should that be?
Last year the U.S. announced it would send $150 million in military aid to Yemen. At that very same moment, hunger fighting programs there were struggling to get funds. This is not how you provide support for a country, ignoring the needs of the people.
Yemen has high rates of child malnutrition and millions are impacted by high food prices. Many children go hungry and cannot get an education. These children, and their country, are missing their great hope for the future.
We should be discussing universal feeding and education programs for Yemeni children, not solely how much military hardware we should be sending. The U.S. and the international community have not maintained a balanced approach to Yemen policy.
Raising standards of living and giving hope to the people of Yemen and other countries is the right course of action. Unfortunately, areas like child feeding and education have not received enough emphasis in Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or even Iraq.
U.S. foreign policy is at its best when we are “against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.” It’s a World War II era philosophy but it’s just as relevant today. This is because people’s basic needs do not change over the years. If we answer the call for food, medicine, education, and economic development for all peoples, then we are on the right course to rooting out terrorism and building peace.
There is great excitement over the death of Osama bin Laden, but realize there is a long road ahead of us for peace and security. To get there, we’d better start utilizing some of the largely forgotten recommendations of the 9-11 commission.
As the commission emphasized, we can offer an alternative to the terrorist vision of violence and death. We can offer “individual educational and economic opportunity.” This means more emphasis on child feeding, rehabilitation, and education. In the aftermath of bin Laden’s death, this would be the wisest policy we can pursue.