Further Escalation Against the Houthis Makes No Sense

Escalation was the wrong way to handle the attacks on Red Sea commercial shipping at the start of the year, and further escalation is the wrong answer today

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James Stavridis isn’t satisfied with the current pointless war against the Houthis and wants something more:

Four mariners dead. Two commercial ships sunk. One ship and 25 mariners held captive.  Global supply chains distorted. Where is a strong military response to this high seas threat?

The U.S. and Britain have been waging a war against the Houthis for the past five months, and all that they have managed to accomplish is to boost Houthi recruiting, deepen anti-American sentiment among Yemenis, and waste limited resources. What “strong” response should the U.S. consider when its military action has so far proven to be useless? Escalation was the wrong way to handle the attacks on Red Sea commercial shipping at the start of the year, and further escalation is the wrong answer today. It should be obvious by now that the Houthis are not going to be bombed into stopping their attacks. If anything, the U.S.-led military campaign has played into their hands and benefited them politically without doing much to reduce their ability to launch more attacks.

Girgio Cafiero reviews the record of the campaign so far:

How much damage the strikes have inflicted on the Houthi war machine and its ability to continue attacking maritime targets is difficult to determine. Nonetheless, these operations, which have cost the U.S. some $1 billion according to a new intelligence report, have ultimately failed to deter Ansarallah, which continues firing missiles and drones at vessels off Yemen’s coast.

There is growing recognition that the military campaign against the Houthis is burning through limited stocks of munitions for no discernible gain. The Wall Street Journal reported last week:

U.S. officials worry that the conflict is simply not sustainable for the U.S. defense industrial base, already strained by the demands for weaponry from Ukraine and Israel. 

“Their supply of weapons from Iran is cheap and highly sustainable, but ours is expensive, our supply chains are crunched, and our logistics tails are long,” said Emily Harding of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “We are playing whack-a-mole, and they are playing a long game.”

The U.S. often puts itself in this position by choosing to resort to force against local forces in pursuit of unrealistic goals. Our forces repeatedly play some version of whack-a-mole because there is no connection between the military action being taken and the ends that are being sought. In this case, the U.S. refuses to admit why the attacks on commercial shipping are happening, preferring to pretend that they have nothing to do with the war in Gaza. Supporters of the current war against the Houthis aren’t troubled by the fact that escalation has made the Red Sea much more dangerous and has made it even less attractive to shipping companies than it was before January.

Read the rest of the article at Eunomia

Daniel Larison is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.