Home/Daniel Larison/The Atrocious War on Yemen and Our Reckless Gulf Clients

The Atrocious War on Yemen and Our Reckless Gulf Clients

Ibrahem Qasim/Flickr: air strike in Sana'a, May 2015

Last week, the Postwarned the incoming Trump administration about continued backing for the war on Yemen:

The Trump team that will inherit this mess arrives with seemingly conflicting impulses. Defense-secretary nominee James N. Mattis, a former chief of U.S. Central Command, is a firm supporter of the U.S. military alliance with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf neighbors, which Mr. Trump has been criticizing since the 1980s . The instinct to reverse the previous administration’s policies, combined with a willful disregard for human rights, might prompt the new administration to renew full support for the Saudi bombing. If so, it will be buying itself a place in a quagmire.

The U.S.-backed war on Yemen has been going on for almost twenty-two months, and in that time all that the Saudi-led coalition has achieved is to turn a poor country into one of the greatest humanitarian catastrophes on earth by blockading it, wrecking its infrastructure, and devastating its economy. The coalition’s stated goals are no closer to being reached than they were when the original “Decisive Storm” operation began in 2015. Millions are starving to death or dying from preventable diseases in large part because of the Saudi intervention that the U.S. has enabled all along, and conditions are only going to get worse unless something changes dramatically and soon.

My only objection to the Post‘s editorial is the editors’ mistake of referring to the relationship with the Saudis and the other Gulf states as an “alliance.” Calling them allies implies that the connection with them makes the U.S. more secure and it suggests that we have formal obligations to defend them. The latter certainly isn’t true, and it is increasingly difficult to see how the U.S. is more secure because of the support we provide to them. They take that support as a license to sow instability in other countries and embark on pointless wars that they can’t win and wouldn’t be able to fight without U.S. assistance. Indulging their reckless intervention in Yemen doesn’t serve any American interests, and it doesn’t seem to be doing the Saudis and their allies much good, either. Like other security dependents around the world, the Gulf clients are happy to receive our protection and our arms sales, but they do practically nothing to contribute to regional security. As we can see from their senseless war on Yemen, they actively work to make the region less secure than it was before. We don’t have a real alliance with them, and our interests and theirs are diverging much more often and more sharply than before, and U.S. relations with them ought to be changed accordingly.

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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