No, the War on Yemen Hasn’t Advanced U.S. Interests
Mansour Almarzoqi makes a preposterous argument against the effort to block arms sales to Saudi Arabia:
First, Saudi Arabia is not given enough credit for its commitment to the protection of civilians as well as for the humanitarian aid it provides to Yemen. Second, the bill neglects the strategic context that dictated the formation of the Arab coalition under Riyadh’s leadership and its intervention in Yemen. Third, it is of fundamental importance to American national security that Yemen has a strong central government and a stable as well as a functioning state structure. These are the objectives of the Arab coalition in Yemen.
Saudi Arabia doesn’t get “credit” for a commitment to protect civilians because it has routinely bombed civilian targets with obvious disregard for the lives of noncombatants. When over a third of coalition strikes in Yemen have hit civilian targets, the Saudis and their allies don’t get “credit” for something they clearly don’t care about. Saudi humanitarian aid has been paltry and stinting, it has come with unreasonable restrictions on how it can be used, and the little that it has provided is easily outweighed by the humanitarian catastrophe that the bombing campaign and blockade have caused. The coalition has wrecked Yemen’s infrastructure, starved its people of basic necessities, and indiscriminately bombed civilian areas for a year and a half. These actions make a mockery of any claim that the coalition governments are seriously concerned about the civilian population. The Saudis are so committed to protecting civilians that they bomb schools and hospitals and take out bridges that are vitally important for delivering food to the capital. The idea that the Saudis deserve anything but scorn for their treatment of Yemen’s civilian population is a joke, and it’s regrettable that this obvious truth has to be stated after all this time.
The “strategic context” Almarzoqi refers to relies heavily on the fantasy that the coalition is combating “Iranian expansionism.” Whatever Iran may be doing elsewhere in the region, it isn’t expanding into Yemen and never was. This part of the case for the war has been a lie from the start, but it is one that supporters of the war hope will distract Americans from what the Saudis and their allies are doing. It simply isn’t true that the war is being fought to prevent an Iranian takeover of the country, and no one should take seriously any argument that includes this claim. This is the excuse that the war’s supporters use to divert attention from the folly and recklessness of the intervention. Meanwhile, the war has strengthened Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). That by itself puts the lie to the claim that the war on Yemen advances U.S. interests. Insofar as AQAP poses a threat to the U.S. and our allies, the war has directly harmed our interests.
It is doubtful that the strength of Yemen’s government could ever be “fundamental” to U.S. national security. That’s a wild and absurd exaggeration of the importance of Yemen’s internal political arrangements to our security. However, if having “a strong central government and a stable as well as a functioning state structure” are so important to the U.S., there is no question that the Saudi-led war on Yemen has badly and perhaps fatally undermined both. The intervention certainly isn’t going to produce either a strong central government or a functioning state structure. Hadi just undermined the last national institution that had survived the conflict intact when he issued a decree to move the central bank to Aden. If creating a stable and functioning state was ever the goal of the Saudi-led coalition (and I rather doubt that it was), the coalition has completely failed at a terrible cost to the people of Yemen. It is obvious that no American interests have been served by supporting this war, and it’s amazing that this still has to be said after a year and a half of senseless and unnecessary war.