Yemen’s perpetual security crisis and excess violence have long been blamed on a weak or failed state. Who needs this narrative, and to what end? This article explains how outside powers and local elites for decades have contrived to keep the Yemeni state feeble or absent. These “ghostly politics” have provided impunity for repression and fomented power struggles, culminating in the war that has ravaged the country for seven years. Now an internationally backed peace plan envisions fragmenting the state even further.

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