Sat 18 Apr 2015
Comments Off on Is the enemy of our enemy still an enemy?
There is a sense in which all wars are stupid wars. But some are more stupid than others. Invading Iraq, which posed no tangible danger to the United States but filled the brainless crania of a group of neocons, is a prime example. Can you imagine Iraq as an ally of Iran or as a breeding ground for extreme ISIS terrorists if Saddam or one of his cronies was still in command? This is not to praise a butcher like Saddam, but to point out that the unintended, even if quite predictable, outcomes of hastily made warmongering tend to take on lives, as they take out lives, on their own. So here is the current scorecard for Decisive Storm, as it nears a month of nightly bombing. Instead of weakening the unholy alliance between the Huthis and Ali Abdullah Salih, this group controls more territory than it did when the bombing started. The major shock from the “shock and awe” campaign thus far is that it is destroying Yemen’s infrastructure and formal military structure, but steadily gaining allies who resent the vast destruction being unleashed on their homeland. Many of those Yemenis who did not like the Huthis now hate the Saudis even more. In addition to the homeless and the dead, the pride of Yemeni nationalism has been seriously wounded, but it is nowhere near dying.
Once upon a time the enemy in Yemen was al-Qaida, the group that sparked our unending and unnerving “War on Terrorism.” It was self-styled as a war against the uncivilized, since in this case only the civilized could muster drones and sophisticated bomber planes. Under Obama’s watch a few al-Qaida operatives were eliminated, along with a larger number of civilians who get classified as collateral damage. The American people are still being told that al-Qaida is our main enemy. Remember the Alamo; remember 9/11. But no longer, it seems. The Saudi-led bombing campaign, being refueled and assisted by the U.S., is targeting the Huthis (who are basically a bunch of under age tribesmen on pick-up trucks) but not al-Qaida. Now that the Huthis have become enemy #1, even though they have not harmed any American interests apart from their Iranian-inspired “Death to America, Death to Israel” mantra, we have lost sight of al-Qaida. It is perhaps lost in the recent political shuffle that the Huthis set out to destroy al-Qaida in Yemen. There is a reason why al-Qaida is gaining ground and it goes to the heart of why war is both stupid and hell. Who do you think is now supporting Hadi? One group is Islah, the Yemeni Muslim Brotherhood variant, which is apparently no longer a major terrorist group in Saudi thinking, and the other is al-Qaida. To be sure, al-Qaida is in this battle for themselves, but for the moment they are supporting Hadi and gaining control over most of the southern part of Yemen. They just took over a major military supply depot in Mukalla, a southern port. But don’t look for any “Decisive Storm” airstrikes over Mukalla.
So is the enemy of our enemy still our enemy? It probably depends on which day of the week it is. At the same time that we are trying to make Iran less of a enemy in nuclear terms, this same Iran is being targeted as a Shi’a Frankenstein out to overwhelm the Sunni world. Lost in this polarized view of the Muslim world is the pragmatic jostling of politics. Since the Huthi are Shi’a, it is alright to ally with al-Qaida. The only smart person in all of this, I hate to say, is Ali Abdullah Salih who is willing to ally with anyone to get back into power. And why not, because he knows that a foe one day can be a friend the next. You are witnessing that right now in Yemen.