The Bizarre Need to Take Sides in Yemen
The U.S. position on the war on Yemen redefines chutzpah:
Mr. Blinken said the U.S. was working closely with the Saudis to limit civilian casualties [bold mine-DL]. “If there are even unintended civilian casualties, you risk alienating the very people you’re trying to help and who you need on your side,” he said.
Hundreds of people have been killed since the Saudi campaign began two weeks ago. Many of these have been civilians, including dozens of children. Most of the casualties in the last two weeks would not have happened if the Saudis had not intervened with U.S. support. The country would not be facing a humanitarian crisis without a military intervention that the U.S. is actively helping through supplying weapons, refueling, and intelligence support. Given all of this, it takes a lot of gall to say that the U.S. is trying to “limit civilian casualties” that wouldn’t be happening in such great numbers in the absence of a military campaign that the U.S. is helping to make possible.
The U.S. is helping the Saudis to wreck another country, but it is supposedly keeping the Saudis from wrecking it too much, as if that is any consolation to the millions of people at risk of being deprived of food, water, medicine, and power. I doubt that anyone really believes that the Saudis are trying to “help” people in Yemen, and it is a deplorable bit of spin on the part of our government to promote the idea that “helping” Yemenis has any part in the Saudi campaign. When any government is bombing a neighboring country, it should be taken for granted that “helping” the people of that country has nothing to do with the intervention. That should be even more obvious when we’re talking about a government as awful and authoritarian as the Saudi government. The Saudi campaign is alienating Yemenis, who understandably resent having their country ruined because of Saudi paranoia, but a slightly more restrained and precise attack isn’t going to change that. When one is launching an unprovoked attack on another country, it is unreasonable to expect that the people on the receiving end will welcome the attackers or approve of their goals.
There have been several debates in recent years about whether the U.S. ought to arm anti-regime rebels in various conflicts overseas, so it is worth noting how easily and automatically many of the advocates of “arming the rebels” in Libya or Syria are happy to back outside military intervention to reinstall an unpopular ruler in Yemen so long as doing so can be spun as an “anti-Iranian” position. If there is a choice between having the U.S. help to intensify conflict or staying out of the conflict, we find many of hawks on the side of the former in every case. Whether that means throwing weapons to the side of rebels or providing weapons to client regimes to use against their neighbors, that is what these hawks want to do.
They want to take the side of regime opponents despite the likelihood that this will produce more instability and violence, and they are the same hawks that want to help shore up tottering rulers against local rebels when the rebels are believed to have the “wrong” patrons. The administration that pursed regime change in Libya in the name of the “responsibility to protect” is now backing the war of its abusive Saudi client despite the extraordinary danger that this poses to the civilian population of Yemen. Behind all of these moves seems to be an insatiable need to take sides in foreign conflicts in which the U.S. has little or nothing at stake. This does nothing to make the U.S. more secure, but it does make our government one of the authors of the ruin of one country after another.