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There Is No Debate in the U.S. on the War on Yemen

Joshua Keating comments [1] on the administration’s support for the war on Yemen in light of the report [2] on the Saudis’ use of cluster bombs [3]:

This is far from the first time the U.S. has been gradually drawn into a complicated foreign conflict without a foreseeable exit strategy. What’s unusual about Yemen is that the administration is barely trying to convince the public that supporting the campaign is worthwhile.

The administration probably isn’t bothering to make this argument because it doesn’t need to and because it doesn’t want to draw any more attention to the appalling war that it’s supporting than it has to. To the extent that anyone in Washington is paying attention to it, there is virtually no public opposition to the U.S. role in Yemen, and because the U.S. remains in a supporting role the war barely registers here at home. There has been reasonably good coverage of the war and its effects in the major papers, but that’s about it. The U.S. has been aiding the Saudis and their partners in wrecking another country for more than a month now, but almost no one is debating the merits of U.S. involvement or the wisdom of the campaign. Despite the fact that practically all Yemen experts see the war as a disaster, and despite the fact that many others can see that the Saudi-led campaign has been a failure, the war seems to be greeted here with little more than a shrug. So the administration doesn’t need to persuade skeptics or sustain popular support for the U.S. role. Obama and his officials can do what they like with minimal scrutiny and no resistance.

It’s important to note here that the U.S. isn’t just being “drawn” into the conflict as if it is being pulled by some irresistible gravitational force. The U.S. has volunteered to help the Saudis as they batter and blockade Yemen. Whatever misgivings U.S. officials may have about this, that doesn’t change the fact that the U.S. has involved itself in this conflict when it was under absolutely no obligation to do so. Other states that might have been expected to contribute to the Saudi intervention have refused to cooperate, but the U.S. has been assisting from the start. The fact that the administration is doing this unenthusiastically just underscores how absurd and indefensible U.S. involvement in this war is.

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14 Comments To "There Is No Debate in the U.S. on the War on Yemen"

#1 Comment By collin On May 4, 2015 @ 2:28 pm

This is a fair point but I assume there are no discussions because:

1) The Middle East is outright confusing here and I think Bassem Youssef nailed it by saying the only way to explain it to Americans is to compare to our March Madness. (I watch this stuff and I can not grasp all the details.)
2) The real enemies are Iran and the Saudis are our Allie against Iran.
3) It still not big enough to hit the MSM for discussion.

#2 Comment By JohnG On May 4, 2015 @ 2:50 pm

If it weren’t so tragic, it would be funny to watch (and make movies about) this whole US-Saudi “partnership.” We despise them, their values, and lifestyle and they similarly despise us, yet we are stuck in this mutual enabler, codependence status. It’s a constant push-and-pull. We want to keep them in the client status, have them continue to stick to the petro-dollar, but in order to do so, we constantly need new carrots and sticks. Given that empires are reluctant to give out too much of the first, it’s mostly down to threats, from Iran, Israel, and internal insurgency, whether ISIS or local Shia. And they resist and maneuver in the space that they can, corrupting our politicians, financing radical mosques around the world that cause us so much trouble, etc.

Bottom line: I don’t think we are that oblivious in this conflict, McCain & Co. are suspiciously silent. Times are changing and if there ever was a good time to reshuffle things it’s now, when there is plenty of oil for $60 a barrel, and Iran is coming online. Could it be that this foreign adventure is what finally breaks the back of the house of Saud? They are burning their reserves at a fast clip (on US military hardware to a large extent) and once they are broke we simply dump them? I wouldn’t be surprised.

PS While the neocon class may have illusions about “managing things,” the whole ME is being reconfigured along sectarian and ethnic lines. If we really wanted stability we would help federalize Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. Based on some fair principle such as roughly equal minorities on all sides. Or we can cynically manage endless wars and pit ones against the others, but how sustainable is that even if we forget the hugely problematic ethical side of things?

#3 Comment By Fran Macadam On May 4, 2015 @ 4:03 pm

Why the lack of public interest? What possible difference could it make? Just another front opened in the business as usual of forever war, now the default status of an American imperium, untethered to democratic accountability.

#4 Comment By SmoothieX12 (aka Andrew) On May 4, 2015 @ 4:22 pm

@John G

While the neocon class may have illusions about “managing things,”

A favorite schtick of US MSM is mythology of “Controlled Chaos” which is an excuse for utter incompetence of the political elites. There is chaos, for sure, just not controllable one. But then again, folie de grandeur will do it to you.

#5 Comment By Nonda Clavier On May 4, 2015 @ 4:33 pm

And when is the Security Council going to get involved? I have seenno anywhere.

#6 Comment By philadelphialawyer On May 4, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

Perhaps the public doesn’t care because not only are there zero American casualties, but also because Americans are only in a support role, and not actually doing the killing themselves.

Typically, military aid to “allies” is an issue that is handled by the FP elite. It is not as if the public somehow “normally” plays a big role in these matters. The public pretty much stays out of/doesn’t actually care all that much about FP issues unless American troops are doing the dying. Thus the dearth of concern about Afghanistan, where the US casualties are few. And the total lack of interest in Pakistan, where the US is doing the killing by remote control drones, but is not doing the dying at all. In Yemen, the US is not even doing the killing (not directly, anyway), much less the dying. So, it doesn’t register as an issue at all, for most Americans.

Perhaps, as Fran Macadam suggests, there would be a different state of affairs if democratic control over FP was more real. But I am not so sure. Not everything can be put up for a plebiscite, some things have to be left to the people in power, and it is just as important to get the FP elite to realize the error of the Forever War/American Imperium FP as it is to get the public to so realize.

During the Vietnam War, eventually, John Q Public started to care. Same in the Second Iraq War. But it took American casualties to make that happen.

#7 Comment By Ken Hoop On May 4, 2015 @ 6:29 pm

Rand Paul could stand out making an issue of it but he might not want to be lumped in with his dad who IS making an issue of it. Or he might support US aiding Saudi for all you can tell by searching for recent comments from him.

#8 Comment By Neal On May 4, 2015 @ 7:25 pm

The execution of US foreign policy and especially the wars on radical islam are off the radar for nearly all americans. This is by design and just about everyone is fine with this arrangement. The political elite neither require our consent nor feel compelled to seek it.

It’s almost not worth even getting worked up about anymore. American politicians and the national security apparatus will forever ruthlessly and brutally operate whenever and wherever they want. Let’s just hope they don’t decide to operate here in America. No one will stop them.

#9 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 4, 2015 @ 9:13 pm

Aside from US involvement, i don’t have much to say on these events. The historical interrelatoions between Saudi Arabia and Yemen are intimate, long and complex.

At least this not an act predicated on our behavior save the tangential Iraq mess.

As for wars, always nasty business. As for the US public, while I agree with several comments above, it might also be that they are worn out. Not a big fan of the public enmasse, especially after Iraq and Afghanistahn and the last two elections –

and like it or not — Saudi Arabia is an important trading oartner and ally. They have placed themselves at risk on our stead on two occassions.

#10 Comment By cfountain72 On May 5, 2015 @ 9:58 am

Yep, it’s ‘1984’ all over again. Please tell us Minipax, who is our enemy this month? Is it Oceania? Or Eastasia?

We’ve been at war for so long that we’ve long ago achieved a certain banality of evil. Cluster bombs? US troops in half the world’s nations? Still fighting in Afghanistan? ‘Defense’ budgets bigger than any point during the Cold War? Hey let’s go bomb Iran!

Thank God for good men like Daniel who still stands athwart history and yells ‘Stop!’

Peace be with you.

#11 Comment By Charlieford On May 5, 2015 @ 11:32 am

The irony (or whatever) is that it’s not 1984 at all. It’s the opposite, perhaps best foreseen by Ray Bradbury. This from the NYT article on the occasion of his passing:

“Most of all, Mr. Bradbury knew how the future would feel: louder, faster, stupider, meaner, increasingly inane and violent. Collective cultural amnesia, anhedonia, isolation. The hysterical censoriousness of political correctness. Teenagers killing one another for kicks. Grown-ups reading comic books. A postliterate populace. “I remember the newspapers dying like huge moths,” says the fire captain in “Fahrenheit,” written in 1953. “No one wanted them back. No one missed them.” Civilization drowned out and obliterated by electronic chatter. The book’s protagonist, Guy Montag, secretly trying to memorize the Book of Ecclesiastes on a train, finally leaps up screaming, maddened by an incessant jingle for “Denham’s Dentifrice.” A man is arrested for walking on a residential street. Everyone locked indoors at night, immersed in the social lives of imaginary friends and families on TV, while the government bombs someone on the other side of the planet. Does any of this sound familiar?”

#12 Comment By cfountain72 On May 5, 2015 @ 1:37 pm

Charlieford,

I agree that the quotes referenced in Mr. Bradbury’s ‘Fahrenheit’ are also quite apropos. Specifically, I was mentioning the way the ‘Party’ seems to constantly be at war with some amorphous faraway country for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to the Proles…nor do they really seem to care. As long as the Party says they are the enemy, then Fight On, Big Brother!

Peace be with you.

#13 Comment By EliteCommInc. On May 5, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

As long one is willing to acknowledge that it is currently democrats doing the fighting and democrats that started an entirely new of round fighting in different regions, that is the democratic administration pushing for censorship and oernicious spying, that it was under a democratic admin in which the surveillance state has hit new zeniths, that under democratic leadership – political correctness is wreacking havoc on discourse. that under liberal and democratic administrations people are being carted off to participate in ceremonies abhorent to the conscience, that liberals and democrats have been the most vehement in murdering children in the womb, that democrats haeve been the primary assailants against objective reality while enforcing some emotional plurality of truth.

The equivent of of object standard is ignoring the very distinct characteristics that make diversity possible.

That the cookie mold of forced same mind thinking is forged in liberal think tanks and exporte as liberating theology the world over.

The data sets on Syria are far more convoluted and as they do not directly impact the US, making a policy position beyond, we should stand aside is very tough slogging.

#14 Comment By Sojourner Truth On May 6, 2015 @ 1:36 am

” I was mentioning the way the ‘Party’ seems to constantly be at war with some amorphous faraway country for reasons that aren’t entirely clear to the Proles…nor do they really seem to care.”

A new twist is that at some point one’s surveilled opinions, which in any case count for nothing, could result in being targeted for retribution under any number of the new unconstitutional “patriot” laws…