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Who Would Support an Indefensible War?

Max Abrahms made an interesting observation last night:

The war on Yemen has de facto support from both parties in Washington and has been enabled reliably by both the Obama and Trump administrations, but very few people seem willing to defend that policy publicly. Except for occasionally publishing propaganda pieces by Saudi government representatives, the reliably hawkish Wall Street Journal editorial page says virtually nothing on the subject. There is not much of the usual cheerleading that we are used to seeing when a U.S. client government is waging an unjust war on its neighbors. The war is simply ignored here in the U.S. for the most part, and its tacit supporters are no exception. It is understandable that there would be few people interested in publicly trying to defend the indefensible, but it is still somewhat remarkable that a war that no one can honestly justify commands so much automatic backing.

Whatever one may have thought back in the spring of 2015 about the coalition’s chances of success, it became obvious a long time ago that they have neither the competence nor the ability to achieve their stated goals. They certainly haven’t been able to achieve them at an acceptable cost, and the evils that the Saudi-led intervention has created far exceed the ones it was supposed to prevent. No one can justify what they have done to Yemen, and in the process the Saudis have made their own country less secure than it was before they attacked. The Saudi-led war on Yemen has been a textbook example of how foreign military intervention intensifies and prolongs a conflict and makes everyone worse off. It has not only created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, but it has also given a boost to Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the local ISIS affiliate. No U.S. interests are served by this war, some are being harmed by it, and yet it has proven quite difficult to end U.S. support for it.

One reason that there are so few public defenders of U.S. involvement is that there don’t have to be many. The U.S. involved itself in the war without debate or authorization under Obama, and no one in that administration needed or wanted to make a public case for a policy that would just call attention to a terrible decision. The public didn’t need to be mobilized behind unauthorized involvement in a foreign war that they knew nothing about, and Obama remained conspicuously silent about it through the end of his second term. Obama’s partisan critics at the time were much more likely to fault him for not doing enough for the Saudis than to attack him for lending them support, so the administration was not forced to explain the decision to back the war.

When virtually no one talks about U.S. involvement in a war, there is no need for partisans and loyalists to defend a policy that few are even aware of and even fewer oppose. When a war is as shameful as this one, there aren’t many people interested in volunteering to make excuses for it. When taking sides in foreign conflicts is so often the unquestioned, default mode of U.S. foreign policy, supporters of intervention don’t need to make a case for doing what the government is automatically going to do anyway.

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6 Comments To "Who Would Support an Indefensible War?"

#1 Comment By Dan Green On November 17, 2017 @ 9:25 am

Just recent events remind us we should have left Saddam and Gaddafi alone. What are we doing in Afghanistan ?

#2 Comment By Donald ( the left leaning one) On November 17, 2017 @ 1:38 pm

There is a closely related point to make— most Americans, liberal and conservative, are indifferent to what we do to innocent people overseas. In fairness, we are socialized to be this way. Suppose Russiagate is all true— a rational person would still say it is an example of dirty politics using foreign help which is far less serious than complicity in genocide, yet Russiagate gets far more attention from both politicians and most of the press and pundits ( with rare exceptions like Daniel). This sends a clear message about what really matters. Which is more effective precisely because nobody says so outright.

#3 Comment By ma kettle On November 17, 2017 @ 7:05 pm

The answer to your question is “the same people who think it’s a great idea for America to hold Israel’s coat while it stomps the Palestinians.”

I would guess that Israel Lobby support for what the Saudis are doing to Yemen is near 100 percent.

What do you think?

#4 Comment By Free America On November 17, 2017 @ 11:28 pm

“I would guess that Israel Lobby support for what the Saudis are doing to Yemen is near 100 percent. “

Not exactly famous for their humanitarianism. No. And you’re right. They do seem to be calling the shots in the Trump Administration.

#5 Comment By Annab On November 18, 2017 @ 9:21 am

I agree with Max Abrahms. We have no interest in supporting the Saudis in their war against Yemen. The Israelis, neither have an interest nor profit to make, for their support of the Saudis. Yemen is poor. There are no huge hidden oil reserves there. Total had a 6 billion-dollar contract, which involved pipelines and lots of remuneration to the Yemenis to “perhaps” sell compressed natural gas to the Indians. It was a huge risk and Total lost because it is no longer in Yemen. In fact, no foreigners are in Yemen (except their servants from the Philippines).

There is absolutely no reason to support the Saudis against Yemen. Morally, we must stop the genocide there! We cannot alliw our government to make us reap the whirlwind if its awful, awful actions against Yemen.

#6 Comment By Annab On November 18, 2017 @ 9:38 am

There is no economic reason why the world would support the Saudis against Yemen. As economics seem to be the soul of our existence, why not stop the war against the Yeminis? There is nothing to gain there beyond the bare subsistence of the poor Yemenis.

We should be ashamed of our apathy.