Bloomberg reports on the dwindling support in Yemen for the exiled President Hadi:

Hadi still enjoys support in parts of Yemen, especially the south. That’s being eroded, as Yemenis on the ground view him as endorsing prolonged airstrikes amid severe food and fuel shortages, said Farea al-Muslimi, a visiting scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut.

The Riyadh meeting “is simply irrelevant to everything,” al-Muslimi said. It will make Hadi more unpopular, because “you’re going on TV and asking the world to keep bombing your country.”

We are used to seeing what comes from ill-conceived wars for regime change, but the conflict in Yemen is reminding us that a war to restore an unpopular leader can be equally foolish and destructive. Trying to reinstall a deposed leader must be one of the most dubious justifications for waging war against another country, but this is the explicit, stated goal of the Saudis’ war on Yemen. Doing this subordinates the long-term well-being of the country and its people to the desire of the ruler and his backers to regain power and influence. It assumes that the lives and welfare of tens of millions of people are less important than putting a disgraced leader back in his former place. Even if the leader is briefly restored to his position, it will have come at such a high price for the civilian population that he will and should be quickly driven out again. In both kinds of wars, outside government try to undo and remake the political landscape of another country, and predictably they are unsuccessful. Intervening governments can do enormous damage and destroy many existing structures in the country they attack, but they have neither the patience, wit, nor resources to replace the things they have destroyed. Indeed, most governments that use some pretext to intervene militarily in the affairs of another country don’t even bother with the pretense that they intend to repair any of the damage they have done.

Intervening governments at some level know that they are needlessly inflicting death and destruction on the country that they attack, and so they invent self-congratulatory lies about the reasons for their meddling. Like the Saudis in Yemen, they claim that they are doing it for the good of the other country and its people, and they imagine that they are “saving” the country that they are, in fact, devastating. These lies are even more important for the exiled leaders that support the intervention that is destroying their country, since they probably have to believe that they are not complicit in the ruin of their own land. For their part, the intervening governments take consolation from the support they receive from the exiles, and they choose to see the exiles as the “real” spokesmen for what the people in the targeted country want. The exiles and the interventionists typically favor the same policies for different reasons, and so they are natural partners in the effort to pummel the targeted country into submission. Both end up hated by most of the people that have had to endure the effects of the war, which leaves the interventionists without their desired puppet and the exiles without their desired restoration. In the meantime, thousands are killed, tens of thousands injured, hundreds of thousands are displaced, and millions are put at risk of starvation, disease, and dehydration. A government that was genuinely concerned to protect and defend its own country would not lend its support to such a shameful and indefensible attack upon the same country, but that is what the “legitimate” government of Yemen has been doing for almost two months.

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