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.