Our Immoral and Irrational Yemen Policy

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Nicholas Kristof has written an excellent column attacking U.S. support for the war on Yemen:

The United States is not directly bombing civilians in Yemen, but it is providing arms, intelligence and aerial refueling to assist Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as they hammer Yemen with airstrikes, destroy its economy and starve its people. The Saudi aim is to crush Houthi rebels who have seized Yemen’s capital and are allied with Iran.

That’s sophisticated realpolitik for you: Because we dislike Iran’s ayatollahs, we are willing to starve Yemeni schoolchildren.

It can’t be emphasized enough that US policy in Yemen is both deeply immoral and irrational. Our government is a partner in war crimes and crimes against humanity ostensibly because of an exaggerated fear of Iranian influence, but even if the latter weren’t exaggerated there is no way to justify what is being done to the people of Yemen. US interests are not advanced in the slightest by the coalition’s war, but any limited benefit would be outweighed by the horrifying costs imposed on a country whose people have done nothing to us. Destroying and starving Yemen does nothing to harm Iran (a dubious goal in itself), but it is inflicting massive suffering on tens of millions of people and destabilizing the entire area for years and possibly decades to come. Even if the worst-case scenario is avoided and millions don’t die from famine, widespread malnutrition has already devastated the health and development of an entire generation.

War supporters usually frame it as a way to combat supposed Iranian “expansionism,” but the Saudi coalition’s intervention is the reason for the modest increase in Iranian involvement since 2015. When that doesn’t work, they will claim that it has something to do with ensuring the security of international shipping, but there has been no Yemeni threat to shipping. Yemenis depend heavily on imports, so it would make no sense for them to threaten their own lifeline. The only impediment to normal commercial shipping in the area has been the coalition’s onerous blockade, which has done so much to create and then worsen the humanitarian crisis. The administration also claims that it is supporting the Saudis and Emiratis to help them “defend” themselves, but they aren’t acting in self-defense and they have actually made themselves less secure by intervening.

No competent strategist would endorse such a policy. No sane realist would agree with it. It is a policy born out of a toxic brew of threat inflation, knee-jerk support for “allies” that aren’t allies, and the usual ignorance of the local politics and history of Yemen, and the results are predictably horrible. The first step in ending this policy is for the House to vote for H.Con.Res. 138, the antiwar resolution introduced yesterday by Rep. Ro Khanna. It is imperative that Congress force the administration to withdraw US support from the Saudi coalition’s bombing campaign. It will take a lot more to repair the damage done by the war that our government has enabled, but before that can happen the US has to stop making things worse.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and is a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Dallas. Follow him on Twitter. This article is reprinted from The American Conservative with permission.

4 thoughts on “Our Immoral and Irrational Yemen Policy”

  1. The formerly semi-isolationist, peace-through-strength deal maker Trump has deeply imbibed the neocon KoolAid served up by Bolton, Pompeo, Haspel, Pence and Kushner and now, intoxicated with a deceptive sense of omnipotence and bloodlust, seems to be aiming to start World War III against Russia, China, Iran and Syria. Israel would side with the US, of course, and possibly the UK if May ignores public opinion, as Blair once did. The rest of the world will sit this one out rather than join the US in its suicidal misadventure. Trump could be a great president, with peaceful, shrewd negotiations, but he seems to be on track to be the worst president in our history, the one who destroyed the country through neocon hubris. Those that live by the sword, as the US has always done, will die by the sword. Sic transit gloria mundi.

    1. If this war comes the United States and England will sit it out too . Congress won’t let Trump get in this war . Trump maybe gone or the United States maybe to occupied to help Israel . Israel be forced to stand alone just like they have in all their previous wars .

  2. Justin and I thought Trump was going to be different from Obama Bush and Clinton . Yet Trump’s war making decisions in the Mid east look to be very much the same . When do you suppose we will start seeing a difference ?

  3. I do not have the energy to read articles that pretend not to get it. Without US wanting this war, Saudi Arabia snd others would have been out of it long, long time ago. Houthus have not seized the capital, they live there. They are NOT Houthis, the name invented by personification of Zaidi Yemen struggle with a name if one leader. On the other hand, if leople really know the plight of Zaidi Yemenis over thousand year history, and the artogance of anyone — Saudis, US, Israel and others to demand that Zaidi Yemen must capitulate and accept Sunni president. They are a separate strand of Shiism, and fled Saudi Arabia at the time of split, having one continuous line of monarchy ruling for over 1000 years.
    But the obsession of anything Shia has become genocidal, and proudly so. THUS American goal is to remove them from Red Sea, thus have control of Bab Al Mandeb. Why is it important? To have blackmailing capability over Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Egypt shipping to Asia. Snything from Red Sea or coning from Suez canal from Europe can be prohibited from entering Indian Ocean. Thus — Yemen war is all about US neocon vision of controlling via brute force the countries over which control was lost. Like Egypt. And without controlling Suez, control is just moving to the other end of the Red Sea.

    So, what would happen to neocon plan of controlling traffic to Asia should Saudi Arabia stop being the bad guy here. And if US decides to go at it alone, there are all kinds of challenges waiting around — including Chinese base ar Djibouti, Turkey in Sudan’s Red Sea Port, etc. The best solution will be to partition Yemen aling old borders before shotgun wedding put them together under Bill Clinton’s rule.

    Now is crunch time. We want to be morally blameless, Saudi Arabia wants toboull out unless we own the war, we want our Saudi fig leaf to stay where it is — and the conflict is brewing. Saudi Arabia pulled out of funding ISIS and other Syrian Islamic cults. And is playing the field of possible atomic piwer plant eith Russia. The myrder of Kashoggi — if indeed murdered — may be just a message. The fight us on. Neocons are backing down, trying to downplay the event as they OVERPLAYED their hand with Crown Prince.
    Somehow, I doubt Turkey will let this one go. Or may be Saudi Arabia not letting it go. If Saudis ratchet up — another poke in the eye, it will be very telling.

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