After saying "happy Valentine's Day," we'll start with a visit to Yemen, where street protests against the government (on a somewhat modest scale, as around 1,000 or so protestors are reported) continue for the for the fourth straight day. Yemen has fairly tight command and control-- at least in this area-- and few doubt that should the order be given, police and troops would open fire on protestors without a second thought. Because of "domestic concerns," Yemeni president Saleh has canceled a scheduled visit to the United States later in the month.
I really want to make that point as clearly as I can, and I deliberately juxtapose the announcement that the American military is planning on stepping up training of Yemeni troops. The stated reason, of course, is "counter-terrorism"-- to battle the "evil-doers" of al Qaeda in the Arabian peninsula and its supposed plots like the 2009 Christmas underpants plot or the recent letter-bombs-to-Rahm-Emmanuel's-synagogue... and that annoying al-Awlaki, you know, talking. And, of course, because of all of this, my hobby horse, Guantanamo Bay, remains awash in Yemenis who have been "cleared for release"... except for the part where political expedience dictates that they're going to be held there for the rest of their lives (or until the American empire crumbles, which might be sooner than you think... just saying...) Cynics-- or talking dogs-- might suggest that our concern in largely oil-less and miserably poor Yemen has little to do with terrorist threats against us, and a great deal to do with the threat of instability spilling over into critically important Saudi Arabia.
Anyway, you see a convenient microcosm of American supply/demand (or if you like, conditioned response) policies the world over. A "security" intervention that's actually about... wait for it... oil. Of course, we could just leave the miserable little country alone and let things go where they go, in which case, most people there would probably not give us another thought. No... better we invest time and effort in teaching the locals to hone their brutality more efficiently (making sure the racks and thumbscrews have clear "Made in USA" labels on them), thereby generating the kind of enemies who might well try to strike at us directly, who will then justify yet further intervention, generating more enemies, justifying yet more military spending and police state measures... Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
I do commend you to visit the (all-too-rarely-blogging-these-days) Jim Henley, particularly this notation of why there arent so many Tahrir Squares here... (hint: it's not an accident.)