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The Cruel War on Yemen

The Washington Post has produced a good report on the war on Yemen and its effects. The story focuses on the damage done to Saada province in northern Yemen:

The destruction in Saada reflects the mounting toll from the war. Millions of Yemenis are suffering shortages of food, water and fuel. Air raids and battles between Saudi-aligned militias and the Houthis and their allies have killed more than 2,500 people, wounded approximately 11,000 and displaced more than half a million, according to the United Nations.

The story appropriately emphasizes the losses caused by the war and the many failures of the Saudi-led campaign. Despite more than twelve weeks of bombing by the Saudis, the Houthis have not lost any ground, but instead have gained at the expense of their adversaries in Yemen. The blockade of the country is succeeding in starving the civilian population and making life miserable for everyone throughout Yemen, but it is not having the desired effect in defeating the Saudis’ enemies. Yemen is not the only loser from this unnecessary intervention. Saudi Arabia’s security is worse than it was before the campaign started, and the more instability that it creates in Yemen the worse things will be for Saudi Arabia over the longer term. A war launched to demonstrate the strength of the activist policy of the new Saudi king has shown the leadership in Riyadh to be impulsive, reckless, and incompetent. U.S. support for that policy has shown the Obama administration to be embarrassing and sycophantic in its desire to “reassure” a horrible and abusive client government.

Other reports make a point of drawing attention to the extraordinary suffering of the civilian population:

The crisis is rapidly reaching the point where it is outweighed only by the dire situation in Syria, which recently entered its fifth year of civil war. Already the poorest country in the region before the war, around 80 percent of Yemenis — some 26 million people — now need humanitarian assistance of some kind. At least 2,500 have been killed, 11,000 injured, and 1 million more have been displaced from their homes, according to the UN.

“What is frightening is that it took Syria two or three years to get to the point Yemen is now at,” says a senior aid worker. “But Yemen’s war has only been going on for three months. The situation was so bad for the poor before that this has simply been the killing blow.”

As bad as Yemen’s conflict and internal problems already were, the decision by outside governments to intervene militarily and to cut the country off with a blockade has undoubtedly made conditions there much, much worse. As it almost always does, foreign military intervention has greatly harmed the civilian population in Yemen, and the U.S. is contributing to that through its support for the Saudi attack. Almost three months after the campaign began, the U.S. continues to support a cruel and indefensible campaign against the people of Yemen, and it is partly responsible for whatever happens there.

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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