Reckless Interventionism and the War on Yemen
Max Boot has happily ignored the war on Yemen until this week:
Two ballistic missiles were fired at a U.S. destroyer in international waters from the part of Yemen controlled by the Houthis, an Iranian-back militia. The missiles did not hit the USS Mason, although it’s unclear if they had some internal defect or whether the ship defended itself with its suite of missile-defense systems.
U.S. warships do not routinely come under attack. When they do, it’s called an act of war. So someone has committed an act of war against the United States. The proximate culprit appears to be the Houthi movement, which is mad at America for backing an assault on it by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
For the record, the Houthis have denied responsibility for launching the missiles, so it is not certain that they made the attempt. It remains unclear who was responsible for the attempted attack, which fortunately resulted in no casualties or damage to the U.S. vessel. No matter who is responsible, the smart thing to do is to reassess the disastrous U.S. policy in Yemen before it is too late. There is no justification in responding to a failed attack with escalation against people that have otherwise done nothing to us, and only a fanatic like Boot would think that is the right response.
The episode does highlight the danger of continued U.S. involvement in and support for a completely indefensible war in Yemen waged by the Saudis and their allies. Among other things, it potentially exposes U.S. forces in the area to attacks from the people our government is helping to bomb. The U.S. is and is perceived to be a participant in that war, and there is always the danger that the U.S. is pulled into the war more deeply because of its support for the campaign. Boot’s post is titled “acts of war cannot go ignored,” and yet he has been more than happy to ignore the acts of war that our government has enabled against Yemen for the last year and a half.
As ever, Boot wants to seize on this episode to increase U.S. intervention abroad:
Retaliating by bombing Houthi positions would be the simplest recourse but not necessarily the one that would do the greatest damage to Iran. Targeting the aircraft of Bashar Assad, a more important Iranian ally, would send an even stronger message. There are also, of course, a range of sanctions that could be applied.
Boot’s proposals are as stupid as they are reckless. First of all, Iran doesn’t control the Houthis, so attacking Iranian allies and clients in other places will have no effect on what happens in Yemen. U.S. bombing of targets in Yemen won’t do anything to Iran, but it would compound the indefensible mistake of backing the Saudi-led campaign. Nothing could better demonstrate the complete moral and strategic bankruptcy of hawkish interventionists than Boot’s attempt to turn this incident into a cause for escalation in two countries.