The new “most dangerous place in the world”?

March 22, 2010 § Leave a comment

The grand narrative that has been built up in the West about Pakistan has sought to portray Pakistan as an unstable and collapsing state and its people as inherently violent. This narrative doesn’t really care what the “facts” are, because to understand Pakistan and Pakistanis as complex and multifaceted undermines the case for military action and imperialist control. The narrative about Pakistan was perhaps most famously expressed in Newsweek‘s cover story from 2007 in which Pakistan was declared “the most dangerous place in the world.”

Well, we may have just lost that title to another country. The Atlantic Monthly magazine has a story in its April 2010 issue that identifies Yemen as the latest “most dangerous place in the world.” The story lists all the familiar themes that the grand narrative has invoked about Pakistan: the presence of Al Qaeda militants, of course, but also a government that is unable to exert full control over its territory, economic crises, civil war, and deep poverty and unemployment. One wonders which post-colonial country is really completely free from all of these ailments, but then again, such questions are wasted on those who accept the narrative blindly.

Are we going to see the case for military action against Yemen? Probably not yet, since the U.S. military is still bogged down in Iraq and Afghanistan. But already the U.S. government has been pushing the Yemeni government hard to carry out its agenda within the country. And, unsurprisingly, the Yemeni government has jumped at the chance to get U.S. blessing and resources for its own actions against its domestic opponents. Yet again, we will likely see a corrupt government doing the bidding of the elite and using the “War on Terror” as the justificatory principle to legitimize its own venality. But the Yemeni government better not get too comfortable with its new role, because the title of “most dangerous place in the world” isn’t a permanent one. Remember that before Pakistan’s designation in 2007, Newsweek had labeled Iraq as the most dangerous place in 2003. No doubt we’ll have a new contender in a couple of years to replace Yemen…

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