Politics Foreign Affairs Culture Fellows Program

Ignoring the War on Yemen

The war has generated virtually no outrage or criticism here in the U.S.

The Saudi-led, U.S.-backed war on Yemen has been going on for eleven weeks, and the humanitarian catastrophe it has created has only grown more severe over time, but except for wire service reports and the occasional newspaper article the average person in the West would scarcely know that it has been happening. Here was Reuters’ report from yesterday:

After 11 weeks of air strikes that have failed to change the balance of power in Yemen, Saudi Arabia is running out of options to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s exiled government to Sanaa.

It is not all that unusual for a foreign conflict to be mostly ignored here in the U.S., but it is strange that a war carried out by U.S. clients with U.S. logistical and intelligence support has received so little attention or scrutiny. The Saudi attack on Yemen has been remarkably destructive. The bombing campaign has inflicted significant damage on the country’s infrastructure, it has caused hundreds and hundreds of civilian casualties, and it has internally displaced hundreds of thousands of people. The coalition’s blockade has been extraordinarily cruel in depriving the civilian population of basic necessities, and has brought the country’s health services to the brink of collapse. At the same time, the Saudis are no closer to achieving their stated goals than they were in March. The Saudis have been battering and strangling their poorer neighbor for two and a half months for nothing, and the U.S. has supported the Saudis and their partners in all of this. In spite of that, the war has generated virtually none of the outrage or criticism here in the U.S. that has been common enough in response to other recent unnecessary wars.

Insofar as the war has received any attention from our current and would-be Republican presidential candidates, they have effectively endorsed it and repeated Saudi propaganda about it. The main complaint from our hawkish candidates is that the U.S. hasn’t been doing enough to help in wrecking Yemen. Clinton’s would-be Democratic challengers have done no better, and perhaps like Clinton they are reluctant to criticize the policy of a president from their own party. Members of Congress have likewise been mute. Considering how frequently many of our politicians like to opine on other foreign conflicts, it is striking that there have been so few interested in talking about the U.S. role here. Perhaps this is a result of indifference, or perhaps they don’t want to be seen criticizing U.S. client governments, or perhaps they don’t see anything wrong with this indefensible war. Whatever the reason, it is worth noting that the U.S. has enabled this war to the detriment of our own interests for more than seventy days without any serious public debate or criticism.