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Benefits of a Near Disaster

January 12, 2010
Philadelphia Inquirer

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It's never good when a terrorist boards a plane filled with Americans and tries to blow it up. But the attempted Christmas attack has inadvertently helped the United States on multiple national security fronts. These silver linings should make longer airport screening lines a bit less annoying:

The world is finally forced to deal with Yemen. Yemen has worried counterterrorism experts for years. The site of a significant pre-9/11 attack, the bombing of the USS Cole, Yemen is a terrorist haven where U.S. officials have been watching al-Qaeda regroup since 2006.

At the same time, Yemen is suffering from two significant domestic conflicts, severe socio-economic problems, and a weak central government. Yemeni officials told me this fall that the country isn't verging on collapse; it's already there.

Unfortunately, the United States and the international community have been too distracted by Afghanistan, Iraq, and the global financial crisis to develop a strategy for Yemen that solves any of these problems, much less diminishes al-Qaeda's influence there. Luckily for Yemenis and the rest of the world, the public is now aware of the crisis, and the international community will be forced to do something about it.

We have a chance to improve intelligence and security. As President Obama detailed after meeting with top national security advisers, the Christmas attack has forced the entire U.S. security apparatus to take a hard look at all levels of the system.

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