After a US “Anti-Terror” raid last month left one US soldier and multiple Yemeni civilians dead, Yemen has revoked permission for the US to perform ground missions on Yemeni soil.
The raid led by US Navy’s SEAL Team 6 and approved by Trump (with direct counsel from Bannon and Mattis) was intended to gather intel on the Al Qaeda group currently functioning in Yemen. Although Trump insists that the operation was a success, the grim reports of children being killed in the crossfire begs the question, was it really worth it? Indeed this is a common question as we hear of the atrocities committed by the US and allies in the Middle East with each coming week. Although to some curbing extremist terrorism may seem a noble goal, it’s important to step back from the situation and assess the tactics being used and the real effects that such actions have on the current sociopolitical climate in that area of the world.
The Obama administration drastically expanded anti-terror programs introduced by Bush, including most famously the Drone Program. According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism there were ten times as many drone strikes under Obama as there were under Bush; A total of 563 compared to Bush’s 57. It’s clear that Obama preferred the more hands off method of murdering his enemies because although the drone program and kill list expanded there have been efforts made to keep US boots off the ground. The implication is that the US does not want to commit to wars on foreign (or friendly) soil, but are unwilling to forfeit the benefits of such aggression.
However, without addressing the ethical questions of imperialism, the effects of expanded air-strikes compared to the effects of a more traditional boots on the ground method of aggression are, to put it insultingly lightly, bad news. For one, soldiers on the ground are capable, to some extent, of infiltrating fortified areas and assassinating targets without extensive infrastructural damage. Although buildings and roads are objectively less important than human lives, the destruction of such resources can leave entire populations homeless, without hospitals or access to clean water and unable to escape the onslaught of war. Drone strikes worsen such infrastructural damage without reducing civilian casualties. the only real upside, if you can call it that, is that the US agents doing the killing can do so from the safety of a military base, controlling the hellfire by remote.
When a “High-Level” target is located there is very little regard for whom or what they are surrounded by, leading to large amounts of collateral damage. A 2012 study by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law reports that some witnesses accuse the CIA of “double striking” targets, moments after the initial strike in some cases injuring and killing first responders. Although Obama’s administration had assured that these strikes are “exceptionally surgical and precise” the facts plainly contradict this. The same 2012 study as mentioned above predicts that these “high-Level” targets account for less than 2% of the total casualties inflicted by drone strikes.
Imagine how this affects public consciousness in these war torn areas of the world. Do you think that the people who live there look kindly on the US for ravaging the land? For executing Coup D’Etats and installing sub-fascist US allies to rule their country (as was the case in Syria and many other parts of the world)? When the US bombs hospitals, destroys homes and disregards civilian casualties do you think theses people give a shit what their intentions are? The short answer is no. The 2013 end of year WIN/Gallup international poll shows that the US is regarded by quite a large margin as the biggest threat to world peace, winning three times as many votes as second place Pakistan. When you are the victim of US aggression, no matter how progressive or liberal you might be, supporting opposition forces (in this case Al Qaeda or Daesh) may seem like the best option for survival, regardless of how you feel about their goals, because they are the only groups in the area capable of resisting western forces. To put it plainly US aggression at best perpetuates radicalisation and at worst is directly responsible for it.
More action needs to be taken in order to curb US imperialism in the middle east and Arabia, and although Yemen’s decision is going in the right direction, allowing the US to continue to carry out military procedures but limiting them to the sky will likely encourage expansion of airstrikes causing even more devastation in a country that’s already torn apart by the ongoing internal conflicts.