Letters

CIA strike in Yemen may backfire on US

In response to "The intrigue behind the drone strike" (Nov. 12): You correctly subtitling the article "Yemeni official says US lacks discretion as antiterror partner," for the American government and Ambassador Edmund Hull have shown little in Yemen. Yemeni journalists already have compared the "targeted killing" to tactics of the Israeli military in the occupied territories, a comparison that will only harm US interests.

The lack of cooperation with the Yemeni government is evident. State media avoided an official statement for days, indicating there was a little time to create a suitable explanation. Until now, the state papers have explained the incident as an "internal explosion," an explanation hardly convincing, given Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz's quick acceptance of CIA responsibility.

But this action has been typical of Mr. Hull's stint. The opposition press has routinely accused him of behaving like a mandub sami, or "high commissioner," for his tendency to work outside the state, a policy which might deliver results for the US but has a potentially destabilizing effect on the Yemeni government. The not-so-subtle reference to Yemen's own colonial past cannot help Hull's own mission to extend economic development to Marib, a largely tribal region under nominal state control.

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For many in Yemen, the most alarming aspect of this episode is the possible loss of legitimacy and authority the government faces for allowing US forces to attack Yemeni civilians after promising such actions would not occur. This is not the only possible negative effect. While those allied with Al Qaeda in the past have targeted government ministries, prisons, or ships, the CIA's targeting of individuals may push potential terrorists to change their tactics and target individuals.

While the US may be claiming the attack a victory, it may have unintentioned effects, seriously undermining any "war on terrorism." There is, in fact, a good chance that it will weaken one of the US's staunchest allies: the Yemeni government.
John M. Willis
New York
Former Fulbright Scholar, Yemen

Real foe is religious totalitarianism

Regarding Godfrey Sperling's Nov. 12 column "Clear public support for Bush": Mr. Sperling credits President Bush's response to terrorism as an important factor in the GOP success, yet aside from removing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan, it is unclear what we've accomplished.

The real foe in the fight against terrorism is religious totalitarianism, which is a beast not amenable to taming through military action.

We will ultimately defeat terrorism only if we can marginalize terrorists in the cultures and societies from which they draw support and strength - if we can remove the "moral" authority they receive from the people they purport to represent.
David Narum
Washington

For youth, no choice on the ballots

In response to Ev Erlich's insightful Nov. 12 Opinion piece "Missing link: Democrats and young voters": Opinion polls consistently rank the economy as a greater concern to Americans than the war.

As a graduating college senior, I worry about the prospects of finding a job. As a father, I worry about the impact of coal burning and greenhouse emission on our future. And as a patriotic American, I question whether it is in our national interest to wage a devastating war on Iraq.

As I punched my ballot on Nov. 5, I realized I had little choice among my options; hardly any candidate took a firm stance on the environment, the war, or the economy - the issues that matter most to me.
Matthew Friar
Alma, Mich.

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