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.