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Flynn and the War on Yemen

Michael Horton sees [1] the war on Yemen as a litmus test for the Trump administration:

What President-elect Trump does—or doesn’t—do about the war in Yemen will tell us a great deal about what his foreign policy in the Middle East may look like. It will also tell us which set of advisors he is most inclined to listen to: pragmatists, like incoming National Security Advisor retired Lt. General Mike Flynn, who prioritize the fight against militant Salafism, or neoconservatives who see Iranian influence as the primary threat to regional stability.

I agree that Trump’s approach to the U.S.-backed war there will tell us something important about his foreign policy, but I’m not sure how Flynn qualifies as a “pragmatist” especially when it comes to Iran. Flynn claims [2] to believe that the U.S. is engaged in a global war against “a working coalition that extends from North Korea and China to Russia, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.” He and co-author Michael Ledeen go on to say that “Iran is the linchpin of the alliance, its centerpiece.” If we take Flynn to mean what he and Ledeen say here, how can we see him as a “pragmatist” in opposition to anti-Iranian hard-liners? For that matter, why would a “pragmatist” write a book with such a fanatical hard-liner and Iran hawk like Ledeen in the first place? For his part, Ledeen wrongly and predictably treats [3] the Houthis as nothing more than an extension of Iran. Why would we think that Flynn disagrees with his co-author on this? I keep coming back to Ledeen and Flynn’s book because we have the next president’s top adviser publicly giving us the outline of his worldview [4] at length, but it doesn’t seem to receive much attention.

If we don’t take his book as a reliable source of his views, we still have Flynn’s own testimony before Congress [5] in which he makes clear his hostility towards Iran and states his opinion that they are responsible for stoking the conflict in Yemen. Since Flynn exaggerates the threat from Iran and imagines a global Iran-centered “alliance” where none exists, it is unlikely that he accepts the reality that Iran’s role in Yemen has been and remains negligible. The only thing Trump has said [6] about the war to date confirms that he shares the erroneous view promoted by the Saudis that Iran was and is seeking to take over Yemen:

Now they’re going into Yemen, and if you look at Yemen, take a look…they’re going to get Syria, they’re going to get Yemen, unless…trust me, a lot of good things are going to happen if I get in, but let’s just sort of leave it the way it is. They get Syria, they get Yemen. Now they didn’t want Yemen, but you ever see the border between Yemen and Saudi Arabia? They want Saudi Arabia. So what are they going to have? They’re gonna have Iraq, they’re gonna have Iran, they’re gonna have Iraq, they’re gonna have Yemen, they’re gonna have Syria, they’re gonna have everything!

Trump probably got this idea from Flynn, or he picked it up from somewhere else and Flynn would be unlikely to correct it. I hope Trump ignores Flynn’s hard-line views on Iran and makes “calculated, pragmatic, and well-balanced” decisions on U.S. support for the war on Yemen and many other issues. Choosing Flynn for a top national security position strongly suggests that he won’t.

4 Comments (Open | Close)

4 Comments To "Flynn and the War on Yemen"

#1 Comment By CAPT S On November 28, 2016 @ 9:16 am

Each & every ongoing war is a litmus test for Trump & his advisors. Flynn seems to be pushing a revised version of the domino theory, which wasn’t such a great theory for those sent to Korea & southeast Asia. There’s no question that the MidEast is a cauldron of hatred, much of it fomented by decades of foolhardy US policy. I hope “containment” doesn’t become a cornerstone of Trump policy, and I hope Trump can nimbly & pragmatically address the blowback from years of US meddling. Best case scenario would be to clearly articulate a new, non-globalist approach to foreign policy, actively walk back our global military footprint, while reacting powerfully to any blowback attacks. Meanwhile, completely disengage militarily from “allies” such as Pakistan & Saudi Arabia. Chance of Trump/Flynn/Romney/Giuliani disengaging? Zero. Best Democrat to add to Trump’s cabinet? Jim Webb; another zero chance.

I’m afraid the foreign policy idiocy of the last couple decades will merely continue … plenty of fodder for Mr. Larison to continue addressing.

#2 Comment By Aegis On November 28, 2016 @ 7:04 pm

I completely agree with the author. Iran is much less of a threat today to the world than they were two years ago.

#3 Comment By john On November 28, 2016 @ 9:42 pm

How much is the USAF charging those guys for gas? Under Trump hopefully gassing Saudi bombers will become a profit center. I wouldn’t hope for much more.

#4 Comment By victory over eurasia On February 1, 2017 @ 2:44 pm

Horton’s view is predicated on the now-insane view that our president is a rational person with a series of coherent, connected, and semi-consistent positions.

If, as is likely, his plan is to always be aggressive, reactive, and in favour of chaos, there are no more tea leaves to read, no more runes to decipher. Like the turtles, it’s just random and opportunistic demagoguery all the way down.

The US is now entering an era fraught with the potential for political and even global catastrophe, an era for which any thinking person was fully forewarned, and the tax-obsessed GOP zombies will cheer us over the cliff. A depressing and concerning time to be an American…..

But at least, emails…..