What Obama's Yemen Decision Means

There are some (that's a great journalistic formulation, isn't it?) who will say that the Obama Administration's decision to give up on Yemen's president-for-life, a superannuated autocrat who was our ally in the war against al Qaeda, means that America is moving into a post-9/11 phase of foreign-policy-making. No longer will a dictator or king be safe simply because he takes our side on this one issue.

There is something to this analysis, I think, but I tend to see Obama's decision to quietly pull the plug on Ali Abdullah Saleh as the pragmatic, self-interested response of an American president who knows his putative friend is done for. Obama paid the price for backing Mubarak when most Egyptians had already realized their president was kaput. The administration wasn't going to make that same mistake twice. Obviously, the Obama Administration seeks a leadership in Yemen that continues the fight against Islamist terror. I doubt this has changed at all. One potential consequence of this, though: America's Gulf allies, already mistrustful of Obama, particularly his steadfastness in times of crisis, will be even more doubtful now.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.

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