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The Bizarre Need to Take Sides in Yemen

The U.S. position on the war on Yemen redefines [1] 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 [2]. 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.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "The Bizarre Need to Take Sides in Yemen"

#1 Comment By Summoners On April 8, 2015 @ 1:21 am

And the butcher bill continues to mount. There is always a price to be paid. I pray to God that those responsible will be the ones to pay it.

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On April 8, 2015 @ 9:54 am

(1) Yemen is a tribal, family-centered society. Long-standing family and tribal feuds fester for years. Blood scores are settled years after the injustice that first gave rise to the hatred.

(2) Roughly half of Yemen’s 24 million inhabitants are under the age of 16.

(3) The US is backing the relentless Saudi bombing of Yemen and the US bears significant responsibility for the many hundreds of civilian deaths.

(4) Why do Yemeni youth fight so fiercely and why are many young Yemeni strapped with explosives so willing to die?

(5) Will Americans be completely astonished and uncomprehending if a young Yemeni with a shoulder-held surface-to-air missile brings down an American airliner? Will we be outraged and scream, “Why do they hate us so?”

(6) We need to worry about blowback.

(7) We need to wash our hands of the Saudi aggression against Yemen. Now.

#3 Comment By Samuel Barry On April 8, 2015 @ 10:53 am

Arguably the most important influence of Islam upon the United States comes from the rationalist/philosophical side of that religion. Jefferson drawing on Locke referred to Muslim philosophers and thinkers on several issues, for example. And this is not to mention the significant place of Muslim thinkers in the development of scientific empiricism more broadly through numerous channels.

The point of this for Yemen is that the Zaydi Shi’ites are one of the most substantial sects to have inherited rationalist notions directly with little modification from the traditionalist groups that came to dominate the religion from the 11th century on. The Saudis for their part are diametrically opposed to the rationalist tradition.

How can it make sense for a nation founded by people who respected the achievements of Islamic rationalism and philosophy to support so reflexively a country that fights to the death and expends untold wealth to destroy those traditions, not just in Yemen, but all over the world? If only we could look a bit beyond the tactical, short-term needs of oil barons and the like, would we not see that our long-term interests lie instead with a very different course of action?

#4 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On April 8, 2015 @ 11:57 am

My aunt, who was an adult during WWII, reacted to 9/11 by saying that ever since Hiroshima she figured something like this would happen.

Nemesis. Alive and well. You can never tell when she will turn up.

#5 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On April 8, 2015 @ 1:23 pm

@Samuel Barry

Islam has NO “rationalist or philosophical” side, let alone which “threatens”, since Sunni Islam’s any “philosophical” side died with Al Ghazali’s “The Incoherence of the philosophers” in the 11th century and the ascendance of Asharism. It all led to al fikr kufr, which pretty much defines contemporary Sunni Islam. Well, Anwar Sheikh considered, quite correctly, Islam as an instrument of Arab imperialism. The only remotely “rationalist” (whatever that means in relation to Islam) derivatives which one can find (apart from Quttb’s “The Milestones”) is something akin to Malik’s “The Quranic Concept Of Warfare”, which is nothing more than regurgitation of standard inter-Islam cliches and has NO real military value whatsoever, apart from being a feverish ideological narrative. So, Islam’s threat to the West comes not from its hypothetical, unicornial “rationalist” sides but from the very depth of the faith itself, from Quran and Hadith, in which issues of violence and war on kuffar are central.

#6 Comment By CharleyCarp On April 8, 2015 @ 4:27 pm

Choosing to oppose AQAP — which still has ambitions of attacking the US — isn’t crazy.

Oh, wait . . . .

#7 Comment By Darth Thulhu On April 8, 2015 @ 5:25 pm

For each and every one of these idiocies, there are only two relevant points:

1) This is an utter moral horror, of which we should be deeply ashamed

2) This isn’t going to work (unless “murder a few thousand people” is our actual goal), and the blowback will be ugly and fully earned

#8 Comment By Al-Saud On April 9, 2015 @ 10:49 am

@SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew)

You tried sounding erudite about Islam, but didn’t quite succeed.

#9 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On April 9, 2015 @ 11:39 am

@Al Saud

No, I merely summarized Robert Reilly’s masterpiece “The Closing Of Muslim Mind” (together with other real scholarly works), plus add here the fact that I was born, lived and served in the environment which was distinctly Muslim.

Yes, I read Quran,Hadith, Umdat Al Salik, The Milestones, The Quranic Concept of Warfare, to name just a few. So, you want to talk about “nice tries”?

P.S. I also was in Libya, and have first hand experience with Arab militaries. Not that I disagree much with Colonels Norwell Atkine or Sergievsky, if you know what I mean;-)