Home/Daniel Larison/The U.S. Needs to End Its Support for the War on Yemen

The U.S. Needs to End Its Support for the War on Yemen

Despite backing the Saudi-led war from the beginning, the U.S. now claims to want to restrain the bombing campaign:

But senior U.S. officials, who were not enthusiastic about the Saudi war plan, are increasingly dismayed by heavy civilian casualties and now believe it highly unlikely that Hadi can be reinstated without a ground invasion. They also worry that the turmoil has allowed Yemen’s Al Qaeda affiliate to expand its territory.

The White House would like Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies to curtail the airstrikes and narrow the objective to focus on protecting the Saudi border, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing internal deliberations.

It was always “highly unlikely” that Hadi could be restored through an air campaign, and it was always very likely that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) wouldbenefit from a Saudi campaign against one of the group’s main adversaries inside Yemen. All of the pitfalls that U.S. officials identify here were fairly obvious from the start, so what purpose was served by providing U.S. backing to a campaign that the administration should have known would fail to achieve its unrealistic goals?

If the U.S. wants the Saudis and their allies to curtail their campaign, the U.S. ought to be scaling back and then ending its support for that campaign. The U.S. cannot back a reckless client’s war and then hope to finesse how the client wages it. The administration is trying to have it both ways on this war by backing it to the hilt while trying to distance itself from the foreseeable consequences of the war that it has been enabling for almost a month. This amounts to saying, “Don’t launch an unprovoked attack on your neighbor this way, but by all means keep attacking them.”

The report says that administration efforts to curtail the bombing campaign have so far been unsuccessful, but then why wouldn’t the Saudis ignore U.S. protests as long as U.S. support continued to flow? As the Saudi-led war continued to cause more civilian casualties, the U.S. has been increasing its involvement in the war, and is now engaging in a dangerous escalation of its involvement at sea. If the administration is “dismayed” by the effects of the Saudi attack, it has done nothing to show this by reducing or ending support for the Saudis and their allies. On the contrary, everything the administration has done in the last month from resuming aid to Egypt (a member of the Saudis’ coalition) to speeding up weapons deliveries to the Saudis is a bright green light to the governments attacking Yemen that the U.S. approves of their campaign. Only now that the campaign is failing as the administration should have anticipated is the administration concerned to put up a flashing yellow light in front of the Saudis. Instead, it ought to have opposed the war from the beginning, and it should cut off all support for the war now before the U.S. is pulled in even deeper.

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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