Don’t Be Fooled by Saudi ‘Aid’ Efforts in Yemen

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The International Rescue Committee dismisses the Saudi-led coalition’s “aid” plan for Yemen:

“The name in itself is misleading: it is neither comprehensive, nor particularly humanitarian,” said Amanda Catanzano, senior policy and advocacy director at the International Rescue Committee. “The Saudi-led coalition is offering to fund a response to address the impact of a crisis it helped to create. The acute crisis in Yemen needs more than what appears to be a logistical operations plan, with token gestures of humanitarian aid.”

As the IRC press release notes, the “aid” plan fails to do many of the things necessary for relieving the suffering of Yemen’s civilian population. First and most important, it fails to end the blockade that has done so much to create the disaster engulfing the country:

The severity of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen demands that all ports – including and especially Hodeidah and Saleef – remain permanently open. YCHO only extends the current 30-day window allowing access to Hodeidah for another 30 days, which makes little to no difference on the ground. If the Saudis were serious about addressing the humanitarian crisis, the most valuable step they could take would be to lift the blockade, permanently, which they and the international community should do without delay.

Of course, the Saudis and their allies are not serious about addressing the humanitarian crisis, because they caused it and have no interest in ending it. However, they want the rest of the world to think otherwise. Their “aid” plan was created to give the impression that they are doing something to remedy the catastrophe they have caused, but it simply isn’t true. This is why credulous reporting about Saudi “aid” efforts is so harmful to the cause of responding effectively to the humanitarian crisis.

The IRC press release concludes:

“A meaningful response to the world’s largest humanitarian crisis requires more access – not less. At best, this plan would shrink access and introduce new inefficiencies that would slow the response and keep aid from the neediest Yemenis, including the over 8 million on the brink of starvation,” said Catanzano. “At worst, it would dangerously politicize humanitarian aid by placing far too much control over the response in the hands of an active party to the conflict.”

The Saudi-led coalition continues its effort to starve Yemen into submission. It needs to be called out and condemned for that, and the U.S. and their other Western patrons need to pressure the Saudis and their allies to lift the blockade fully and permanently.

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 fromThe American Conservativewith permission.

Tillerson’s Blinkered Understanding of North Korea

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

The ‘60 Minutes’ interview with Rex Tillerson makes for depressing reading:

Margaret Brennan: What is the carrot that you’re dangling for North Korea to convince them to talk?

Rex Tillerson: We’re not using a carrot to convince them to talk. We’re using large sticks [bold mine-DL]. And that is what they need to understand. This pressure campaign is putting – is having its bite on North Korea, its revenue streams. It’s having a bite on its military programs.

Margaret Brennan: But to say full denuclearization, why would they agree to give up something they’ve already got that they think is an insurance policy?

Rex Tillerson: Because it buys them nothing [bold mine-DL]. It buys them more of being the hermit kingdom, isolated, isolated from the world diplomatically, isolated from the world economically.

Each of these answers is troubling, and taken together they show how hopeless the administration’s policy towards North Korea is. The U.S. is expecting North Korea to give up something that is clearly extremely important to them, but it is offering them absolutely nothing in exchange. There is something about dealing with “rogue” states that causes people in our government to shut off their ability to reason. If our positions were reversed and we were the ones being put under “maximum pressure” to force us to give up our nuclear deterrent, would we respond to increasing pressure by caving or by doing whatever we could to keep building up the thing that our adversary wants to eliminate? It would obviously be the latter. If North Korea is given no incentives to do something, and faces only more and more pressure unless it capitulates, it is a virtual certainty that their government will dig in its heels and concede nothing.

As if that weren’t bad enough, our officials can’t or won’t even acknowledge that North Korea gets something out of refusing to give up their nuclear weapons and missile programs. They get to keep what they have already built, and they retain an ability to use these weapons that they didn’t possess a little over a decade ago. If they consider having such a deterrent to be essential to their regime’s survival (and we have good reason to believe that this is what they think), refusing to denuclearize has almost inestimable worth to them. If our top government officials don’t understand that or can’t admit it publicly, we’re in much bigger trouble than I thought.

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 fromThe American Conservativewith permission.

Daniel Larison: Maximalist Demands Won’t Change North Korean Behavior

Originally appeared on The American Conservative.

Mike Pence confirmed again that the administration’s idea of “talking” to North Korea doesn’t mean anything:

Vice President Mike Pence told Axios’ Mike Allen on Wednesday President Trump “always believes in talking [with North Korea], but talking is not negotiating.”

He said nothing will change with North Korea until they give up their pursuit of nuclear weapons [bold mine-DL]. He said they must “completely, verifiably, and completely abandon” its missile programs, and “only then can we consider any change in posture by the United States or the international community.”

The administration’s maximalism may feel satisfying, but it has no chance of reducing tensions or getting North Korea to agree to anything. The insistence that North Korea abandon these programs is as unrealistic as can be. It is not just that North Korea has already invested considerable resources in these programs and would be reluctant to dismantle everything they already have, but they also believe these programs to be essential to their security. Just as our government would not budge on something that it considered vitally important, theirs is not going to budge. More pressure and threats will just make them cling to these programs that much more tightly.

Continue reading “Daniel Larison: Maximalist Demands Won’t Change North Korean Behavior”

Michigan And The War

Related to James Bovard’s question about the war and the Michigan primary, here are some indications of how the war may be affecting the primary.  According to Strategic Vision, 39% of Republicans support withdrawal for American forces from Iraq in the next six months, which hints that Michigan should be receptive to an antiwar message.  However, as he noted about the exit polls from New Hampshire, antiwar voters seem to have backed McCain there for some reason, which suggests that the war was either a low priority for most of these voters or they did not identify McCain with the ultra-hawkish wing of the GOP.  According to Rasmussen, Ron Paul has 8% support, which is one of his best poll results since his fifth-place finish in New Hampshire last week.  Based on the crosstabs of that Rasmussen poll, 92% believe Iraq is “very important” or “somewhat important,” but those who rate it as very important tend to be “conservative,” among whom Paul does not poll as well as among “moderates.”  To the best of my knowledge, all the leading candidates have been running heavily on domestic, economic issues, given Michigan’s high unemployment rate.  The wild card remains Democratic crossover voters who have no stake in the essentially one-sided Democratic primary, where Clinton is the only leading named candidate on the ballot because of a DNC ruling againt Michigan for its early primary.  These Democrats could follow the lead of Kos and back Romney, or antiwar Democrats could vote on principle for Paul and boost his final result.

Our Man In Tbilisi

It has been so obvious this week that it seemed a bit like piling on to observe that Saakashvili’s declaration of a state of emergency (like a certain other allied dictatorial ruler we know) and violent repression of civilian protesters are just the latest expression of the one-man despotism that Saakashvili created in Georgia in the wake of the so-called “Rose Revolution.” Like its successors in Ukraine, Lebanon and Kyrgyzstan, the Rose Revolution narrative has come to its predictable, unhappy conclusion where the revolution is supposedly “betrayed” (The New York Times took up this line Saturday) or fails to “fulfill its promise” or is “thwarted” by malevolent forces, when the entire thing was a sham from the beginning. The Guardian offers a typical lament (though, to their credit, they do not engage in the easy Russia-bashing that commentary on Georgia often becomes). Even now, Ralph Peters is offering up one version of this disappointment with how the “revolution” turned out:

The Saakashvili regime shone from afar – but grew rotten within.

But there was never anything that “shone” about the “Rose Revolution,” except perhaps the glaring hypocrisy of the “revolutionaries.”

Continue reading “Our Man In Tbilisi”

The Freedom Agenda Strikes Again

Of course, Saakashvili’s “Rose Revolution” never was a democratic movement.  That much is obvious.  So it would be deeply mistaken to describe the continued U.S. backing of Saakashvili as a contradiction or betrayal of the “freedom agenda”–the “freedom agenda” has always been aimed at the empowerment of local oligarchic stooges who will align their governments with ours, and Saakashvili has certainly fit the bill.  That is the whole point of the “agenda,” and how these lackeys rule at home has never been Washington’s concern.  The internal affairs of other states concern Washington in inverse proportion to those states’ alignment with the United States. 

In this way, we can understand why Washington continues foolishly to back Musharraf and will persist in its hostility towards Venezuela’s Chavez, despite the marked similarities in their styles of government and the clear destabilising effects all three rulers are having on their respective countries.  Chavez doesn’t play ball, Musharraf occasionally does what Washington (again often foolishly) calls on him to do, and Saakashvili is a reliable lackey, and they are treated accordingly.   

Cross-posted at Eunomia