By KYLE LEHMANN
At this moment, there is a war going on that the U.S. is involved in that most people do not know about. Your mind might drift to places like Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, among other places where the news will report a successful raid against a terror network of the death of a U.S. serviceman in an attack on a U.S. base every once and awhile. But there is a conflict the U.S. is involved in that is brutal and does not seem to have a clear exit strategy, and many citizens may not know about. This conflict is unfolding in Yemen, a conflict in which the U.S. should reconsider how it should be involved.
Yemen is a country that is in crisis; an ethnically divided country in a region where sectarian violence dominates is hardly a position any country would pursue. Ever since the Arab Spring, which forced their long-standing leader, President Saleh, to step down and his successor President Hadi, who was closely aligned with Saudi Arabia, to take charge of the country. The Houthis, an ethnic group in Yemen, who are more closely aligned with Iran, have rebelled against his installation as president. This rebellion has erupted into a full-on proxy war between a coalition led by Saudi Arabia against Iranian backed Houthi rebels for influence and prestige in the Middle East with Al Qaeda insurgents also taking up arms and seizing control in various regions in all of the chaos.
How is the U.S. involved then? The U.S. has a long-standing alliance with the Saudi Monarchy and a lengthy history of antipathy against the clerical regime in Iran. The United States, alongside the United Kingdom, have provided substantial assistance to the Saudis. The two countries have provided training for pilots and soldiers, intelligence flights, and refueling coalition planes. This is in addition to providing the coalition with substantial amounts of weapons, and in the case of cluster bombs, weapons outlawed by a majority of the international community. The Saudis, with said arms, have pursued a campaign that is the definition of ruthless and excessive.
Besides indiscriminate bombing of civilian centers, a war crime, the Saudi coalition has embarked on a blockade of Yemen’s ports to prevent food and medicine from reaching civilians, also a war crime, that have caused a humanitarian crisis that the Yemenis and the international community are ill prepared to deal with. 22.2 million people, three quarters of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance with almost half of that number needing immediate attention. Almost 18 million people are food insecure with around 8 million people being at risk of starvation, making Yemen among a lonely group of two other states, South Sudan and Somalia, being in famine conditions.
Besides bombing civilians and blockading necessary supplies, other old things making dramatic returns in this conflict includes cholera. A disease that is as much historical in our minds as Spanish flu or small pox is, currently running amuck in the country. Haiti, the country most associated with cholera outbreaks, had 815,000 cases between 2010 and 2017. Yemen broke this in a mere six months. Cholera now afflicts more than a million people in Yemen due to the inability to fuel them due to the blockade and them also being targets for Saudi airstrikes.
This is not to say the rebels and the Iranians have their hands clean either. Make no mistake, they are not innocent either. The Iranians have been supplying the rebels with ballistic missiles that have been fired at the Saudi capital of Riyadh, one of which hit an airport. Iranian intentions are no nobler than Saudi Arabia’s to expand their influence in the cutthroat style of politics in the region.
With the ferocity of the Saudi campaign in this conflict, the U.S. should take a step back and re-examine its role in the conflict. Although no U.S. pilots, soldiers, or seamen are directly fighting, the amount of support we are lending to the Saudi coalition is concerning since its aiding them in their brutal war. The U.S. should seek to try to nudge the sides of the war to seek peace.
If a speedy peace cannot be delivered, then a more humanitarian war, if that makes sense, should be pursued. The U.S. has significant sway in Saudi Arabia, with U.S. providing a significant amount of military aid and weaponry to the Kingdom. The U.S. should try and leverage military aid to try and get the Saudis to pursue a more restrained campaign in their effort to restore the Hadi government. One of the worst humanitarian crises is unfolding in the Middle East, and we are unwittingly aiding it indirectly. We should be investing our assets towards a path to try and help find a solution to this humanitarian catastrophe.