Yemen: A Different Political Paradigm in Context

Authored by:
Roby Barrett
Published on 5/1/2011
Digital Only

In this sweeping study of Yemen, Dr. Barrett argues that while Yemen may be a failed state, it is not a failed society.  Yemen is a complex society with power built on family, clan, and tribal relationships.  It is not one nation-state, but rather a balance of multiple Yemens based on fundamental social, cultural, and sectarian differences.  Within this context Dr. Barrett asserts that now is the time to reconsider U.S. approaches towards Yemen.  We should not seek governmental transformation, but rather strive to reach beyond the central government and weak institutions to engage tribes and clans. Throughout history, political power has ebbed and flowed between central and decentralized local and regional authority.  Yemen today is no more or less fragmented than it has ever been.  Our goal should be to strive to achieve a balance among these multiple Yemens--groups that have coexisted, almost in continuous conflict, throughout history.