Home/Daniel Larison/The Indefensible War on Yemen Continues

The Indefensible War on Yemen Continues

The U.N. is drawing more attention to the disastrous humanitarian crisis created by the Saudi-led war on Yemen:

Pressure is mounting on the Saudi-led military coalition that seeks to stanch a rebellion in Yemen, as aid officials prepare to add Yemen to the ranks of the world’s most severe humanitarian crises and human rights groups point to what may be war crimes.

United Nations officials are expected to declare Yemen a so-called Level 3 — or most severe — humanitarian crisis, as the de facto military blockade on commercial ships restricts the supply of food and fuel into the Arab world’s poorest country, diplomats said Tuesday.

As the article notes later on, the other countries that have received the Level 3 designation are Iraq, Syria, and South Sudan. The difference is that Yemen’s crisis has dramatically worsened in just the last three months, and most of the harm that has been done in this time could have been avoided if there had been no Saudi intervention. Fourteen weeks later, a country that already had serious humanitarian needs has been kicked into the abyss thanks to an unnecessary war that our government continues to support.

In addition to the extraordinary harm the Saudi-led coalition has been doing to the country through its blockade, Human Rights Watch has charged the coalition with possible war crimes in its indiscriminate attacks on Saada province:

Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a rebel stronghold in Yemen have destroyed houses, markets and a school, killing dozens of people in what could amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.

It was fairly clear when they started targeting the whole of Saada province that they were going to be committing war crimes, since they had outrageously declared the entire area to be a military target. This was a flagrant violation of international law, but it didn’t matter to the Saudis, and it seems not to have had any effect on U.S. support for the campaign.

The additional scrutiny of the Saudis’ indefensible war is very welcome, but I wonder if the “mounting” pressure the article describes will have any effect on the intervention. As the article goes on to relate, the U.S. doesn’t even want to admit that the blockade that is starving Yemen should be called a blockade:

The preferred term, as one United Nations Security Council diplomat put it, is a “controlled maritime area.”

It is usually a good sign that a government intends to persist with an indefensible policy when it can’t call things by their proper names. As long as the U.S. can pretend that the blockade strangling Yemen is something else, that makes it a little easier to ignore the effects that the blockade is having. If there is to be any chance of pressuring the Saudis to give up on their failed war, it will need to come from Washington and their other supporters. So far, there is no sign that this is likely to happen. The administration keeps blundering on with its mindless and disgraceful backing for the campaign.

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.

leave a comment

Latest Articles