There are so many strands to the situation currently confronting the United States on the Arabian Peninsula (read: Yemen) and the Horn of Africa (read: the other al Qaeda refuge) that it's difficult to even imagine how to begin weaving something comprehensible.
Fortunately -- despite that blowhards like former Vice President Dick Cheney and others might suggest -- the Obama administration has been engaged militarily and diplomatically in Yemen since early last year. And while that didn't stop an apparent al Qaeda operative from boarding a U.S.-bound plane with explosives in his pants last month, it's a helluva a lot more than the Bush administration did in its last years to address another unstable corner of a very unstable region.
My own sad interpretation of Cheney's rather virulent attacks on the Obama administration as being naive, unengaged and unwilling to acknowledge that there is a war going on between the U.S. and the United States of Terrorism is that -- from his vantage point and political perspective -- he genuinely believes what he says.
That's because the Bush administration's method of war-fighting was almost entirely reactive.
Situation bubbling out of control? Send in the drones. Or a surge. Or more covert aid.
That's what kept the Bush administration engaged in Yemen during the first part of this decade. Anyone remember a series of drone attacks on top al Qaeda figures in Yemen way back in 2002 and 2003? Of course not. But there was a time when Yemen and the Horn of Africa were almost part of a strategy to dismantle al Qaeda. Back before an obsession known as Iraq distracted the U.S. military and took the political winds out of any sails not headed toward Baghdad.
But to a conflict-minded reactionary like Cheney, that's how you fight. You find the fires, and you stamp them out. And then you move into the next flare-up. Never mind the smoldering ruins you leave in your wake, ready to flame up while your back is turned.
But no matter how you slice it, the Obama administration has been fundamentally more engaged in Yemen than the Bush administration.