Home/Daniel Larison/The Obama Administration’s Pathetic Excuse for Supporting the War on Yemen

The Obama Administration’s Pathetic Excuse for Supporting the War on Yemen

The Postreports on U.S. support for the war on Yemen. This quote stood out:

When the operation began, support for a key ally was a foregone conclusion [bold mine-DL], one official said. “There was this great sense of ‘this is the right thing to do,’ ” the official said.

If we have learned anything from the last year and a half, it is that automatic support for whatever client states choose to do is as destructive as it is mindless. The U.S. has no formal obligations to help defend Saudi Arabia, and it certainly isn’t obliged to assist them or any other Gulf state conduct a war against one of their neighbors. Deciding to back the Saudis on this should have been anything but a foregone conclusion, especially when our government had no clear idea of what they were hoping to achieve. U.S. support for the war also shows us how irresponsible it is to think of these client states as “allies” that we have to help. Who could honestly believe that helping a gang of wealthy despotic governments pummel their poorer neighbor was the “right thing to do”?

Earlier in the article, there is a reference to the “intense desire” that people in the administration have to shore up the relationship with the Saudis, but none of the officials quoted in the story can say why that relationship is worth enabling a disastrous war and creating a major humanitarian catastrophe. The Obama administration has viewed their support for the war as a sick sort of trust-building exercise with Riyadh, but that is the worst possible reason to lend support to any military campaign. We shouldn’t even do that for our treaty allies, so we certainly shouldn’t be doing it for states that are much less important. Instead of judging the intervention by whether it was justified or likely to succeed at an acceptable cost, the administration just backed it because it was what the Saudis and their allies wanted to do. An “intense desire” to please despotic clients is no excuse for fueling a senseless and atrocious war, and it is an indication of how indefensible the administration’s position is that this is the only excuse they can offer.

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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