Mark Perry has written an excellent report on Lloyd Austin’s policy views. Among other things, Perry finds that Austin was strongly opposed to the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen when he was in charge of Centcom:
What’s crucial is what Austin did in the aftermath of these failures, particularly after the Saudi intervention in Yemen. “Lloyd was enraged by the Saudi intervention,” a senior officer who worked with Austin at Centcom said, “because we [the Americans] were quietly supporting the Houthi fight against AQAP [al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula] at the time.” Austin was so angered by the Saudi move, this now-retired officer said, that he considered formally requesting that the Obama administration denounce the intervention. “We waved him off of that,” the officer with whom I spoke at the time said. But Austin also predicted the troubles the Saudis would face and made his views known to senior civilians at the Pentagon. “He thought the Saudis would lose in Yemen and that, before it was all over, we would have to bail them out,” this same officer noted. Austin was right on both counts: The Saudis found themselves mired in Yemen and dependent on U.S. intelligence assets in their fight.
The Obama administration’s support for the war on Yemen was one of its greatest and most destructive errors. If the president and the Secretary of Defense had listened to Austin’s advice and refused to support the war, that could have been avoided. It reflects very well on Austin’s judgment that he understood that the Saudi intervention wasn’t going to succeed. One of my concerns about Austin is that he would be too indulgent of the Saudis and the UAE because of his Centcom experience, just as Mattis had been when he was Defense Secretary, but this record suggests just the opposite. At the very least, that bodes well for how the Biden administration will act in Yemen. Austin’s view of the war on Yemen helps make sense of why Biden selected him.