Now is the time for a quick U.S. de-intervention in Yemen

Winston Churchill once said that the Lord always looks after drunks and the United States of America. And though we hardly deserve it, Providence may have again stepped into the breach and given the United States a second chance to take advantage of a hard, murderous, but very real opportunity in the Middle East.

The overthrow of the Yemeni government sets the stage for a Sunni-vs-Shia conflagration on the Arab Peninsula. The late Yemeni regime is a zero loss to the United States. What President Obama once described as a vital regional ally — media pundits are now echoing this lie — was nothing more than a Arab strong man and his gang who ruled the Yemeni capital of Sana and almost nothing else, men who generously agreed to take hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. military equipment, cash, training, and who knows what else. In return, the Yemeni regime allowed what it could not stop in any event: U.S. drone and Special Forces’ attacks that violated Yemeni sovereignty. Silence was the Yemeni regime’s main contribution as Obama’s vital regional ally, and now with that government gone, and none ready to take its place, the attacks can continue because there is no sovereign government to object to them.

What good such attacks would do is another matter. They have killed some important Yemen-based Islamist leaders and may have destroyed some arms caches, but the fact is that Al-Qaeda-on-the-Arab-Peninsula (AQAP) is stronger than ever before. The U.S. attacks in Yemen — as well as those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and elsewhere — amount to nothing more than make-Americans-feel-good tactical victories that, as always, leave the strategic advantage and momentum with the Islamists.

Today’s reality in Yemen again demonstrates the extraordinary fecklessness of the U.S. government, both U.S. political parties, U.S. and NATO generals, and their EU sidekicks. Expensive support from all of them brought no stability to Yemen; U.S. and NATO-country military training did not create a force that could defend the regime; and Special Forces’ and CIA pin-prick attacks and drone strikes did nothing to slow the enemies’ growth. In addition, two Islamist insurgent organizations — the Houthis and AQAP — have grown larger, stronger, and better armed since the United States and Europe started supporting and publicly praising the Yemeni regime, while simultaneously lying to Americans and Europeans about how our now-deceased key regional ally was beginning to pull its own weight and was a shining example of the success of U.S. and Western policy.

There is, however, one bright spot in this otherwise dismal story. The arrival of the Shia Houthi insurgents as a potent rival of the Sunni AQAP gives the United States another — even if unmerited — chance to step back and watch the marvelously positive impact a regional Shia-Sunni sectarian war would have on U.S. national security. Such a war would hurt the U.S. economy a bit because Obama, Cuomo, and their deeply anti-American party have blocked U.S. energy self-sufficiency, but otherwise there is nothing but upside for the United States.

First, in Yemen, as in Syria and Iraq before Obama intervened and hurt U.S. interests, all the people that U.S. governments have for forty-five years identified as “enemies” would be killing and maiming each other. In addition, Saudi Arabia would aid AQAP and Iran would aid the Houthis, so the benefactors of al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, Lebanese Hizballah, Bashir al-Asad’s Syria, Iraq’s Shia militias, and the Houthi fighters would be drawing each others blood and spending wastefully. While all of this lethal mayhem is proceeding, the United States could simply watch and “officially regret” a religious war that has been in the making for a millennium, and which, with a little luck, will bleed each side white and move the United States a bit off the Islamists’ bull’s eye.

Second, the United States should withdraw all of its personnel and moveable physical assets from what the Obama called the Yemen success story. This should be done, of course, because we do not want our personnel to have to fight their way out with the help of the U.S. Marines. But more important, Washington could use Yemen as the opportunity to begin a policy of non-intervention in the Middle East, and thereby begin to sap the Sunni Islamists motivation to attack America. We could publicly say that our withdrawal is evidence of America’s granite-like support for self-determination — a lie, our governing elite loathes the idea for Americans or anyone else — but Obama’s arrogance will need some noble-sounding reason to abandon his now in-flames success story.

Third, Washington should build on a successful de-intervention in Yemen by beginning the same process in the Syria-Iraq theater. Obama and the Europeans clearly have no intention of defeating the Islamic State and Al-Qaeda there — and U.S. generals clearly have no talent whatsoever in training Muslim armies, witness Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, etc. — and so whatever funding, weapons, and lives that are expended there amount to pure waste. Once U.S. forces leave, the road will be open for a resumption of the Sunni-Shia religious war in the Levant and Iraq that was perking along and expanding nicely until Obama and British Prime Minister Cameron saw themselves as the second coming and launched their avenging if always war-losing angels to save “innocent foreigners” at the expense of decreasing the security of their own nations and citizens. Who knows, two quick de-interventions might cause everyday Americans to press their bipartisan governing elite to abandon the knee-jerk, ruinous, and war-causing habit of intervening in countries where no life-and-death U.S. interest is at stake, as well as to reestablish the tradition of quickly and utterly annihilating those few enemies who pose a genuine threat to U.S. national security.

Because multiple second chances to redress errors, as Churchill said, come only to drunks and the United States, Obama’s Washington ought not to miss the Yemen opportunity to do something that would contribute to rather than erode U.S. national security. Relentless interventionism and open borders have, respectively, earned America a war with an increasing portion of the Muslim world and allowed our Islamist enemies into the United States undetected. A de-interventionist foreign policy and closing the southern U.S. border would head the United States toward a much more effective and Americans-protecting foreign policy summed up in the time-honored and commonsense phrase “America First.”

Author: Michael F. Scheuer

Michael F. Scheuer worked at the CIA as an intelligence officer for 22 years. He was the first chief of its Osama bin Laden unit, and he helped create its rendition program, which he ran for 40 months. He is an American blogger, historian, foreign policy critic, and political analyst.