Thursday, March 26, 2015 at 6:24 AM

Yemen Falls Apart … Too

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

Yemen’s embattled president was pushed deeper into crisis Wednesday after fleeing a last-ditch refuge as advancing Shiite rebels seized a key air base to add another prize to their expanding territory.

The whereabouts of Western-allied President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi was not immediately clear.

But any further disintegration of Hadi’s power would tip Yemen closer toward a civil war involving various factions, including a powerful branch of al-Qaeda.

(Washington Post, March 25, 2015)

No kidding!

6144568756_12825d0f88_bHere, in part, is how I’ve been pooh-poohing every new strategy (i.e., troop deployment) President Obama has announced to combat Islamic terrorists (from Al-Shabaab in Somalia to ISIS in Syria).

I urge you to listen carefully for anything that convinces you that his war on terrorism (against ISIS) will be any more successful than Bush’s ill-fated war on terrorism (against al-Qaeda). Just be mindful that JFK convinced the American people that his war on communism (in Vietnam) would be more successful than his predecessor Truman’s war on communism (in Korea). And beware that a stupid war by any other name (like “a counterterrorism operation”) would still prove as stupid….

(“Demystifying ISIS: Case against Obama’s Bush-lite War on Terrorism,” The iPINIONS Journal, September 10, 2014)

Nothing validates (or vindicates) my cynicism quite like ISIS actually growing in strength since Obama launched his master plan six months ago to “degrade and ultimately destroy” it.

More importantly, here (also from “Demystifying ISIS…”) is what I’ve been proffering as the only sensible strategy Obama should execute – with respect not just to these rampaging terrorists, but also to the various factions in Afghanistan and Iraq that have bedeviled America’s ill-fated efforts at nation building for more than a decade.


I’ve been lamenting – in commentaries as far back as “The Shotgun Convention of Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds to Frame an Iraqi Constitution,” August 22, 2005 and as recently as “Sunnis, Shias, and Kurds Fighting for Control of Iraq. Stay Out, America” June 19, 2014 – the folly of the United States acting as if it can either ‘win’ a war on terrorism or build a Jeffersonian democracy in the Middle East:

With respect to the former, I’ve maintained that the best the United States can do is deny terrorists safe havens and disrupt their training and planning with vigilant drone surveillance and targeted preemptive strikes. After all, as it has demonstrated by doing this everywhere from Pakistan to Yemen, the United States does not need a coalition of the willing to do so.

With respect to the latter, I’ve maintained that it’s best to rely on aggressive diplomacy (aka “soft power”) to affect [regime] change in the region. And if diplomacy fails, to leave warring factions to their own devices, sufficing only to warn whichever one emerges as the governing authority that it will suffer a Taliban-like fate too if it harbors terrorists within its borders.

I put forward this strategy because, if the Afghans and Iraqis Americans spent over a decade training to govern themselves, defend themselves, and sustain themselves can’t stand on their own against a rag-tag bunch of Taliban fighters and rampaging ISIS/ISIL terrorists, respectively, then they deserve whatever fate befalls them. To say nothing of the dreadful spectacle of so many of those the U.S. trained either turning their guns directly on U.S. troops – in now notorious ‘green-on-blue’ killings, or using that training to professionalize the ranks of terrorist groups like ISIS.



This is why I hope I can be forgiven for just rolling my eyes in disgust when Yemen began falling apart a few months ago, despite Obama’s best efforts to portray it as his proverbial “city upon a hill” in the Middle East.

Nothing damns Obama’s folly in this context quite like Yemen looking more like Iraq today. Recall that he hailed Yemen a few months ago for the type of successful counterterrorism partnership the United States is attempting to establish in Iraq.

(“Obama’s Mission Creep in Iraq Channeling JFK’s Mission Creep in Vietnam,” The iPINIONS Journal, November 12, 2014)

usa-isis-strike-deploy.siBut even I was dumbfounded that, even with the writing so clearly on the wall, Obama had hundreds of Marines still trying to put this Humpty Dumpty of a country back together again.

Unsurprisingly, this set up the inevitable spectacle of these Marines retreating in the face of Shiite rebels (aka Houthis) in Yemen this week, in a manner embarrassingly similar to the way U.S.-trained and equipped Iraqi soldiers retreated in the face of Sunni rebels (aka ISIS) in Iraq last year.

6ee83bc2e3f46a0c710f6a7067009a98_r620x349In fact, the symmetry of this spectacle is such that fleeing Marines left behind even more sophisticated U.S. armaments for the poorly equipped Houthis to exploit than the fleeing Iraqis infamously left behind for ISIS to exploit.

The Pentagon is unable to account for more than $500 million in U.S. military aid given to Yemen, amid fears that the weaponry, aircraft and equipment is at risk of being seized by Iranian-backed rebels or al-Qaeda, according to U.S. officials.

With Yemen in turmoil and its government splintering, the Defense Department has lost its ability to monitor the whereabouts of small arms, ammunition, night-vision goggles, patrol boats, vehicles and other supplies donated by the United States. The situation has grown worse since the United States closed its embassy in Sanaa, the capital, last month and withdrew many of its military advisers.

(Washington Post, March 17, 2015)

Frankly, I couldn’t create such a conflagration of follies if I tried. All I can do is reiterate my call for Obama to leave the various Muslim factions across the Middle East and in parts of Africa to their own devices.

I hasten to clarify that, despite warmongering media reports, none of their sectarian fighting has ever posed any threat to the national security of the United States. Indeed, let us not forget that Sunni Iraq and Shia Iran fought an eight-year war during the 1980s, which most Americans were not even aware was going on.

RTR4UPPL-1024x664Again, the United States should deploy Special Forces to those regions only to protect areas of vital strategic interest, like Saudi oil production and international shipping lanes.

This is why I was so dismayed on Tuesday, when Obama compounded his 2009 decision to surge more troops into Afghanistan by announcing a one-year extension of their deployment at the behest of new Afghan president Ashraf Ghani. After all, and I cannot belabor this point, it is abject folly to think that 10,000 U.S. troops can do a better job of training Afghan troops in one year to defend their country from Taliban fighters than 100,000 U.S. troops did in ten years.

Apropos of folly, nothing is more so than the United States trying to prevent Shiite rebels from overthrowing a hapless Sunni president in Yemen, while the putatively powerful and predominantly Sunni kingdom of Saudi Arabia sat idly by – right across the border – with a military arsenal worth hundreds of billions just becoming sand infested. This is why I was so heartened yesterday, when the Saudi ambassador to the United States announced that his country has finally begun launching military strikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen.

sunni-vs-shiaIncidentally, it might be helpful to know that eighty-five percent of the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims are Sunnis. Therefore, if Sunni Saudi wants to forfeit leadership of them to the marauding band of Sunni psychopaths – who are now trying to form a medieval Caliphate in Syria and Iraq, what business is that of the United States? Moreover, if Sunnis want to forfeit the soul (or political control) of Islam to the fifteen percent of Shias, led by Iran, again, what business is that of the United States?

Except, of course, that there’s probably no conflict on planet Earth defense contractors and their congressional pawns would not declare of strategic interest to the United States. For this is how they justify the unconscionable amount of taxpayer dollars budgeted each year to feed the frankensteinian military industrial complex, which former President Dwight D. Eisenhower famously warned about over 50 years ago. Hell, you could be forgiven for thinking that every politician who comes to Washington pledges as an article of faith that what’s good for defense contractors is good for U.S. national security.

Mind you, I still urge the United States to use its good offices and regional influence to try to broker peace between Sunnis and Shias, just as it has been doing to broker peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Notwithstanding that the prospect for peace in the former case (with shifting alliances among far too many Muslim clans to count) is probably even dimmer than in the latter.

In any event, this would/should not require military intervention of any kind. Only misguided neo-imperialism and unconscionable corporate greed would necessitate that.

Related commentaries:
Demystifying ISIS
Obama mission creep

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