In This Review

Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes
Yemen: Dancing on the Heads of Snakes
By Victoria Clark
Yale University Press, 2010, 328 pp

Is Yemen becoming the next Afghanistan? Both countries appear to be fragile states with unpopular leaders confronting open or incipient rebellion (in the case of Yemen, from two very different parts of the country) and showing a shaky resolve about taking on the terrorist threat. In both cases, concerned outsiders are unsure of what to do, although there are no outside military forces intervening in Yemen. Comparisons can be useful in taking the measure of a little-understood country such as Yemen, but even more useful would be a readable history that includes current, on-the-ground snapshot of the country and its people. This Clark achieves, with a political history of Yemen from the sixteenth century to the present, followed by reportage based on her meetings with representative Yemenis, both in the government and in the opposition. Clark leans toward concluding that outsiders should proceed with caution. To evoke another comparison, a half century ago, Egyptian military intervention soon produced the gibe that Yemen was Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s Vietnam.