"Let nothing human be alien to me"- Terence

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

British involvement in the Huthi Rebellion???

According to Iran, anyway. 

This is obviously silly.  Britain and the west gain no benefit from the disintegration of Yemen; the opposite is true.  And the Iranians don't even try to give an explanation, other than the assumption that this is something the English would try to do.

But it isn't without meaning.  England doesn't have a shiny reputation in the Middle East.  And while it is tempting to go all Orientalist here, and say something like "to the native, grudges last through generations" while lighting my pipe and taking a bite out of an albino leopard, it isn't necessary.  There is living memory of Western interference.   In America, we tend to have shortened historical memory, and so we dismiss the effects of colonialism, but that is a bit hypocritical.  We are still fighting Vietnam and the culture wars of the 60s.  Or, to put it another way, if you told an American in the 1830s that the King was behind the economic collapse, wouldn't they be inclined toward hearing you out?

There is a larger issue at play here, and it is one of competing narratives.  Iran is basically being accused by everyone of interfering in everything, of spreading its Islamist influence everywhere.  And these accusations are rooted firmly in reality, of course.  With a roiling population tired of oppression and tired of the foreign interventionism needed to sustain military rule, it helps the ruling party to be able to say "hey- it isn't us!"  I would imagine that this release has little to do with Yemen  qua Yemen, and more to do with trying to change the larger story.

I would be interested to learn from people on the ground in Yemen their feelings on how something like this might play.  My guess is that a young population, while not immune to these stories, has a far deeper knowledge and more immediate memory of their own government's failings, without needing to resort to outsiders.  But then I think the White Sox are going to win the World Series every year, so my judgment might be questionable.

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