US Senate hearings, part II

My previous post presented a Storified version of the live-tweeting of yesterday's Senate hearings on US Yemen policy. Here I'd just like to add a little bit of analysis. As is often the case with these things, one of the most notable things about the hearings was what wasn't heard. The witnesses testifying included several individuals from the Department of State, and two think-tankers who commented on US involvement in Yemen more broadly. But there was no one among the witnesses from the CIA or the Joint Special Operations Command, the two organizations involved in so-called "kinetic" operations in Yemen--that is, targeted counter-terrorism strikes.

What this means is that while US diplomatic and humanitarian efforts were put on trial (very politely, of course), US military operations were not. At a time when the Congress is looking for programs to cut, and politicians are looking to score points ahead of elections, this discrepancy is particularly noteworthy. The Obama administration loves drones and special ops (as does much of the public), and Congress is much more willing to fund military projects than diplomatic ones. A hearing like this one, in which senators challenged witnesses to prove the effectiveness of "soft" assistance to Yemen, could certainly aid in explaining the prioritization of the kinetic approach to America's problems in Yemen, while still maintaining the fiction that this country cares about the plight of the Yemeni people. I doubt it's a coincidence that on the same day, someone from the military/intelligence community fed ABC news a very sexy and impossible to verify story on just how close US operators have come to killing the dreaded Anwar al-Awlaqi.