Home/Daniel Larison/Put an End to U.S. Support for the War on Yemen

Put an End to U.S. Support for the War on Yemen

U.S. Army Gen Joseph L. Votel, commander United States Central Command. (Department of Defense photo by U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Dana Flamer)

The Trump administration’s shameful support for the war on Yemen continues:

The top United States military commander in the Middle East suggested Tuesday that America would continue to back its allies waging war in Yemen, despite new evidence of arms deal violations uncovered by a CNN investigation.

Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of Central Command (CENTCOM), told a Senate hearing on Tuesday that withdrawing US support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen would remove the “leverage we have to continue to influence them” and could further endanger Americans in the region.

The Saudi coalition has committed thousands upon thousands of war crimes against the civilian population of Yemen, their policies have driven up to 15 million people to the verge of famine, and they have been allying with Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for almost four years. None of this has convinced the previous administration or the current one to cut off military assistance to the Saudis and Emiratis. It was too much to hope that credible reports of diverting U.S. weapons into the hands of terrorists and other extremists would have any effect. The Trump administration is abjectly subservient to the Saudis and their allies, and there is obviously nothing that any of them can do that will jeopardize U.S. backing. Our Yemen policy remains as despicable and indefensible as ever.

Gen. Votel says that cutting off support for the coalition would remove the “leverage we have to continue to influence them,” but this gets things exactly backwards. By refusing to cut off support, the U.S. is refusing to use what leverage it has to influence the Saudis and Emiratis. The U.S. has considerable leverage that it simply will not use, and so in practice it has no real influence with governments that assume they can do whatever they want without repercussions from Washington. When the U.S. is too concerned about alienating its bad clients, that means that the bad clients dictate the terms of the relationship and get to do what they please with our support. It is the clients that should fear losing U.S. backing, but instead one administration after another caters to some of the worst governments in the world for fear of “losing” clients that need the U.S. far more than we need them.

New resolutions are coming up for a vote in the House and Senate this month to end the disgrace of U.S. backing for the war on Yemen. The administration will fight against them every step of the way, but they have already lost the argument. There is no case for supporting the war on Yemen, and Gen. Votel’s weak answers are the proof of that.

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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