South Yemen: Yoke of Independence

In its rush to rid itself of the weight of empire, Britain has often bestowed independence on lands that had no business accepting it. Botswana, for example, is an empty but now sovereign desert, Gambia a wriggle of jungle riverbank, and the Maldives a spatter of coral atolls mostly inhabited by starfish. Few lands, however, have been so ill-prepared to rule themselves as the Federation of South Arabia, which Britain announced last week will become independent by the end of November.

South Arabia consists of the port of Aden and 17 feudal satraps...