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Home/Daniel Larison/The Cruel and Indefensible War on Yemen

The Cruel and Indefensible War on Yemen

Matt Purple describes the effects of the Saudis’ “unconscionable war” on Yemen. He concludes with a question:

So the pointless carnage in Yemen will drag on, but how much longer can America stomach it?

Unfortunately, it seems that our government can “stomach” the horrific effects of its client’s reckless war for a long time. For more than four months, the U.S. has enabled the pummeling and strangling of another country so that it can indulge the excessive and largely unfounded fears of a group of despotic governments. There is no sign that this is going to change. The Obama administration is backing the Saudis as they create famine conditions in one of the world’s poorest countries so that it can “reassure” them that our government is a reliable patron. This has been one of the ugliest and cruelest episodes of harmful U.S. meddling in the last thirty years, but remarkably it continues to be one that goes mostly unnoticed here at home. The public can “stomach” the wrecking of Yemen forever because most Americans are at best only vaguely aware that it is happening, and there is even less understanding of the supporting role that the U.S. has in all of this.

The more disturbing thing about the response to the war on Yemen in the U.S. is that many of the people that are paying attention to it seem to have no problem with it. Many members of Congress are displeased with the Obama administration on this issue, but their complaint is that Obama was too slow and too stinting in his support for the Saudis. To the best of my knowledge, no members of Congress have voiced any objections to the U.S. role in this war. As Purple notes, because the war is framed as an anti-Iranian effort it doesn’t receive the scrutiny that other regimes’ behavior receives, and it definitely doesn’t generate the same outrage. It’s a depressingly familiar pattern: the abuses and war crimes of allies and clients are ignored or justified and their civilian victims are viewed as being less deserving of protection.

Purple observes earlier in his article that a war that empowers Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and slaughters civilians isn’t in America’s national interest, and he’s certainly right about that. If that’s the case, perhaps it is long past time that the U.S. reevaluate its relationships with the clients that it has been aiding in this atrocious war. If helping them to destroy another country at the expense of our interests is the cost of “reassuring” them, we ought to acknowledge that our interests and theirs diverge often and widely.

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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