Home/Daniel Larison/Ending U.S. Support for the War Is Not ‘Abandoning’ Yemen

Ending U.S. Support for the War Is Not ‘Abandoning’ Yemen

One of the administration’s most twisted talking points on Yemen is the idea that ending U.S. support for the Saudi coalition constitutes “abandoning” Yemen:

It would be much more accurate to say that the U.S. abandoned Yemen and its people when our government agreed to support a war that has destroyed their country. Ending that involvement wouldn’t be an “abandonment” of Yemen. It would be the first time in years that our government has chosen to put the welfare of the people of Yemen ahead of indulging despotic clients. When Trump administration officials talk about “abandoning” Yemen, they really mean that we mustn’t cut off the Saudis and Emiratis. They’re saying that the U.S. needs to keep helping the governments that have been destroying and starving the country for the last three and a half years. The administration is demanding that we continue to abandon the people of Yemen to famine, poverty, and despair so that our monstrous client states remain satisfied.

I suspect the vast majority of Yemenis would welcome U.S. “abandonment” if that meant that our government stopped providing their tormentors with military assistance and diplomatic cover. The U.S. absolutely should stop assisting war criminals responsible for slaughtering tens of thousands of Yemenis and creating the appalling conditions that have caused at least 85,000 Yemeni children to starve to death. Merely ending our involvement in the war is woefully inadequate after the enormous harm that our government has done through supporting this war. The U.S. needs to be pressing the Saudis and Emiratis for an end to the blockade, the stabilization of Yemen’s economy, and the payment of government salaries.

There is something profoundly wrong in our foreign policy debates in the way we talk about engagement with other countries. Yesterday Mattis and Pompeo warned against “disengaging” from Yemen, as if our government were doing the people of Yemen some favor by remaining involved in the war that is killing them. Today Hook warns against “abandoning” Yemen when he really means that we must continue helping the Saudis and Emiratis kill people in Yemen that have never done anything to us. If the U.S. had spent the last three and a half years actually neglecting Yemen instead of contributing to their misery and enabling the aggressive war being waged against them, the people of Yemen would almost certainly be better off than they are today. Supporting invasion and bombing of another country doesn’t show concern for the people living there, and halting support for an unjust war is not abandonment.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. 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.

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