On every level, the Saudi Arabia-led war in Yemen is a catastrophe. It’s left thousands dead and tens of thousands injured. There’s widespread famine. Disease. Landmines. You name it, Yemeni civilians are suffering from it. Currently, UNICEF considers Yemen one of the worst places on Earth to be a child.
And the U.S. is right in the thick of the conflict, for no reason.
The war between the Saudis and the Houthis, Iranian-backed rebels from northern Yemen, has been going on since 2015, after the Houthis ousted Yemen’s government from the country’s capital. On a grander scale, it’s part of the ongoing power struggle between Saudi Arabia and Iran that is occurring all across the Middle East, most notably in Syria.
The U.S., of course, counts Saudi Arabia as one of its strongest allies in the region, and has not only provided hundreds of billions of dollars in arms to that petro-monarchy – which then get used in Yemen – but is also providing the Saudi coalition with intelligence and plane-refueling support. It may not have soldiers on the ground firing bullets in what amounts to a civil war with outside participation, but the U.S. is complicit in the Yemeni disaster. It throws in some drone strikes against militant groups for good measure, to add to the carnage and destruction.
Like so many armed conflicts in which the U.S. has engaged in recent years, this one was never approved by Congress or even debated publicly before the American people in a real way. In fact, you’d certainly be forgiven for knowing nothing about it at all, as the war itself generates few headlines and the U.S. role, like it’s larger alliance with the horrible Saudi regime, is one of those things that everyone in power just takes for granted, like the sun rising or President Donald Trump tweeting crazy stuff.
But there’s no case to be made for the U.S. having any part of this conflict. To that end, three senators on Wednesday are trying to advance a resolution calling for U.S. armed forces to get the heck out of it.
Sponsored by Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Mike Lee, R-Utah, it will call “to remove U.S. armed forces from hostilities between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in Yemen pursuant to the War Powers Resolution.” A release from Sanders’ office claims this will be “the first-ever vote in the Senate to withdraw U.S. armed forces from an unauthorized war.”
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The War Powers Resolution is supposed to check the president’s ability to wage war without the consent of Congress, but it’s no secret that Congress has wanted no part of its war-declaring duty for a long time now, being wholly content to let the executive branch take the lead and the heat. That, however, has led to the U.S. engaging in a bevy of conflicts large and small all over the world without getting input from the legislative branch.
Even with Congress’ recent abdications, though, there’s a good case to be made that U.S. involvement in Yemen is illegal. Congress stepping in to say so is the right move.
Not that the resolution will have much practical effect, mind you, even if Sanders and co. can summon the votes for it to pass, since it would have to also pass the House and be signed by the president to result in the withdrawal of U.S. armed forces from the war. Last year, the House passed a non-binding resolution saying that the U.S. effort in Yemen wasn’t authorized, and obviously little changed.
Still, every little bit helps, and if Sanders can use his star power to get the Yemen war on the radar, so much the better. (He is the most popular elected official in America, after all.)
As I’ve said many times before, there’s something about the Middle East that drives U.S. policymakers and commentators batty. They feel the need to get the U.S. involved in every conflict over there, no matter the strategic importance to the U.S. directly. Every whiff of a fight sends members of Congress into guns-a-blazing mode. These pols and pundits seem to believe there’s no problem American bombs can’t fix in the Middle East, despite all of the previous evidence to the contrary. All we’re buying for our efforts is some anti-Americanism.
But the Saudi war in Yemen isn’t our fight, nor is the wider regional conflagration. The Middle East is in the midst of a power struggle that isn’t going to be decided by the U.S. and where none of the options regarding who wins are very good anyway. It’s villains all around. We should be doing what we can to aid the various humanitarian crises and otherwise staying the heck out.
The war in Yemen has forced millions from their homes. Millions more are dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. The U.S. should wash the blood from its hands and stop its contributions toward making those numbers go ever higher.