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Three Years of the Senseless, Unnecessary War on Yemen

It has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis, and it was all entirely unnecessary.
yemen airstrikes sa'ada

The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led war on Yemen began three years ago today. I wrote one of my first posts on the war a few days later, and I said this:

It is bad enough that U.S. clients are doing this, but it is even worse that U.S. is supporting it. It makes no sense for the U.S. to assist in wrecking Yemen for the sake of reinstalling an unpopular president. If another authoritarian state were doing what Saudi Arabia is doing to Yemen now, we all know that every Western government would be condemning it as unprovoked aggression against its neighbor. I know that isn’t how Western governments are going to treat the Saudis, but our government could at least refuse to participate in any way in this dangerous and unnecessary military intervention.

As we all know, three years of senseless and atrocious war have followed, and throughout all of it the Saudis and their allies have enjoyed unstinting U.S. military and diplomatic support. The disaster engulfing Yemen was not only foreseeable, but it was foreseen by many Yemen experts, aid groups, and others. Opponents of the intervention predicted that the intervention would fail on its own terms because of its unrealistic goals, and we also said that it would inflict enormous suffering on the civilian population. We said that the blockade of the country would deprive the population of essential goods because of the heavy reliance on imports, and unfortunately the effects of the blockade have been even worse than many expected. Wars always last longer and cause more death and destruction than their supporters expect, and regrettably the war on Yemen is no exception. Foreign intervention typically worsens existing conflicts by prolonging and intensifying them, and that has certainly been the case here. The point I want to make is that no one who knew much about Yemen thought that the war was winnable or desirable, and pretty much everyone besides the governments waging and supporting it accurately foresaw the ensuing disaster. It has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and it was all entirely unnecessary.

Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is the most important story in the world, but it is also one of the most neglected and ignored stories today. It sometimes seems hard to fathom that more than eight million people are starving to death, and millions more are severely malnourished, and the Saudi-led coalition governments responsible for it are almost never identified by name and suffer no consequences for what they are still doing. There are brief bursts of coverage, some of which can be quite poor and misleading, but on a daily basis most newspapers and media outlets don’t talk about it, and if it weren’t for the efforts of a relative few members of Congress the war and our government’s role in enabling it would be even less well-known. Because it is so ignored, there is no urgency in providing sufficient funds and aid. UNICEF’s regional director pleaded this week for $350 million to sustain their humanitarian efforts in the country:

The UN urgently needs $350 million for humanitarian projects in Yemen, a senior official said Sunday, insisting it was mere “peanuts” compared with the cost of the country’s war.

The U.S. alone could provide that amount, and between all of the coalition governments and their Western patrons that much could easily be donated, but there is no pressure on them to do so because there is still shockingly little awareness of and concern for what is being to Yemen by these governments. Yemen’s people are suffering in catastrophic conditions that could be significantly improved if the coalition and its Western backers ended the blockade and allowed essential goods in without hindrance, but to date they have preferred to continue a reckless, failed war while imposing a blockade that is slowly but surely killing millions of people.



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