Send Trump and the Saudis a Message: End Support for the War on Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

A State Department official restated that the administration very much wants to continue backing the Saudi coalition war on Yemen:

“There are pressures in our system … to either withdraw from the conflict or discontinue our support of the coalition, which we are strongly opposed to on the administration side,” said Timothy Lenderking, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Arabian Gulf Affairs.

“We do believe that the support for the coalition is necessary. It sends a wrong message if we discontinue our support,” he told a security forum in the United Arab Emirates.

While Pentagon officials tell members of the Senate one thing, other administration officials tell members of the Saudi coalition something else. According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs’ testimony last week, the U.S. isn’t a participant in the war and doesn’t support any side, but the administration is quick to reassure an audience in the UAE that the US won’t “withdraw from the conflict” (acknowledging that we are a party to the conflict) and won’t “discontinue our support” (admitting that we are very much on one side). Administration officials tell a dishonest story to Congress to discourage opposition to the war, but when they need to reassure regional clients that US support isn’t going anywhere they drop the pretense of being uninvolved. It is no wonder that members of Congress have grown tired of the administration’s two-faced Yemen policy.

Mr. Lenderking calls support for the Saudi coalition “necessary.” That raises some obvious questions: necessary for whom and for what purpose? It isn’t necessary for US security. Supporting the war on Yemen has strengthened jihadists and destabilized the region to our detriment. There is no obligation to support the Saudis and Emiratis in a foreign war of choice. The US has no defense treaties with them, and they are the aggressors in any case. Support for the war on Yemen is the definition of a policy that the US doesn’t need to have, and the war itself is a perfect example of an absolutely unnecessary war.

What message would be sent if the US stopped supporting the indefensible war on Yemen? The message would be that the US doesn’t provide mindless, unconditional support to its clients regardless of what they do. It would tell the world that most Americans want no part of this despicable policy that was made without our consent. It would at the very least convey a message that the US is still capable of correcting horrible foreign policy errors. More than that, it would show that Congress and the American people won’t stand for enabling famine and crimes against humanity. The Trump administration strongly opposes sending all these messages, and so it is against every effort to cut off support for the Saudi coalition. Congress must ignore what the administration wants and end US involvement, and if they do that they will also be sending the message that they won’t simply roll over for illegal and unauthorized wars as they have been doing for the last fifteen years.

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.

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