Opinion Editorial: The Preventable Destruction of Yemen
By: Foster H. ('20)
Surely it can't get worse than this. The Yemen Civil War, a proxy war between the Middle East's most prominent country, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, their arch-enemy, has resulted in a high mortality rate, starvation, the bombing of hospitals, large civilian casualties, and a cholera outbreak. The two countries, of course, despise each other due to a number of differences, with the most considerable being the religious tension between the two, as the Saudis are Sunni Muslims and the Iranians are Shi'ite. This certainly isn't the first conflict between the rival countries, but it arguably is the most important in the modern world.
First, let's start with the Iranian Nuclear Deal. From a Saudi perspective, the deal was a disaster. Rather than completely side with the Saudi ideal of abolishing Iran's Nuclear Program, the Saudis were infuriated by the successful American approach: limit but don't stop Iran's Nuclear Program. The completion of the deal led to a crescendo of tension in US-Saudi relations. The ever-hawkish Republicans responded by utilizing their congressional advantage to pass an arms and weapons deal supplying the Saudis with a range of weapons and vehicles, most notably airplanes (Bayoumy). President Obama provided a more agreeable response: he prevented the deal from ever happening (Cooper).
But why would the arms deal have been such a disaster? The answer lies in the Saudi Armed Forces and their many failures. The Yemen Civil War was a byproduct of the Arab Spring Protests (“Yemen Profile”). The form of such protests in Yemen took place in the rise of a Shi'ite activists group in Yemen named the Houthi Rebels. The Houthis led the charge in forcing Yemen's President Saleh to resign and allow his deputy to take his place (“How Yemen”). Thus, the Saudi-backed President Hadi took power (“How Yemen”). The Houthis, now backed by Iran and still not satisfied, began to militarize to a greater extent (“Yemen Profile”). In September, 2014, the Houthis violently took over Yemen's capital of Sana’a with Iranian weapons, prompting the Saudis to respond (“Yemen Profile”). Their response? Airstrikes (“How Yemen”). In the three years that the war has dragged on, the great number of faults in the Saudi Armed Forces have become apparent. Their naval blockade, while blocking Iranian supplies from entering Yemen to help the Houthis, has starved the Yemeni people and has blocked aid (“Yemen’s Worsening”). Their infamous airstrikes failed to hit stationary targets and almost always hit innocent civilians, hospitals, or homes (“Yemen’s Worsening”). All of this devastating destruction caused by the Saudi Air Force, Navy, and Army has created a horrific brand of chaos, a chaotic scene that has worsened with a large cholera outbreak while the Saudis block aid (“How Yemen”). Providing the Saudis with more weapons for the war in Yemen that are capable of even more destruction would have been a grave mistake.
The Saudis believe the only possible solution must involve airstrikes even if such airstrikes result in human rights violations. The Saudis claim that the only way to deal with the Houthis is through a bloody war with civilian casualties. And, to be fair, they aren't totally wrong in the capacity that airstrikes have proven to be the only facet of the Saudi-led offensive that has resulted in, albeit costly, success. Further, the Saudis are forced to fight in this war. They need to respond to Iran's aggressions and protect their border. But the number of civilian casualties is too high to deem necessary, especially when most are easily avoidable.
Among the chaotic mess that is Yemen -diseased, war-torn, and starved- there is a simple solution. The hawks in Washington don't see it, as they are blinded by their part in the military-industrial complex. The doves don't see it, as they stand against any intervention whatsoever. Because of America's disastrous two party system, both parties fail to see the blatantly obvious solution, which is training and modernizing the Saudi Armed Forces.
Just as the problem lies within the Saudi Armed Forces, so does the solution, presenting itself in the form of the one Saudi Armed Force not under the Saudi Ministry of Defense- the Saudi Arabian National Guard. Ironically, while the Saudi Army, Navy and Air Force have grown to be almost infamous, the Saudi National Guard- which serves as the Border Guard, Royal Guard, and National Guard- has gained the reputation as being one of the Middle East's most elite fighting forces (“OPM-SANG”). Why? You guessed it: a training and modernization program headed by the U.S.
The U.S. Military actively trains the Saudi National Guard; they even have an office in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. This partnership has resulted in an impressive 100% record, meaning that they have never been defeated (“OPM-SANG”). During the Gulf War, the National Guard was deployed to the Kuwaiti-Saudi border (“OPM-SANG”). They played a pivotal role in driving back Saddam Hussein's forces. That success is the result of the U.S. training of Saudi troops.
The United States does not need to put boots on the ground or supply the Saudis with billions of dollars worth of destructive weapons as President Trump wishes to do; the U.S. need to provide training instead. By modernizing and effectively training the Saudi Armed Forces, along with reorganizing and controlling the Saudi Blockade, the number of civilian casualties will decrease and the humanitarian crisis can begin to be dealt with. Further, such a program would cause the Saudi coalition's triumph over the Houthis. The chaos can be calmed.
South China Sea
By: AJ ('21)
The game being played in the South China Sea is not one of military strategy, but rather the resources and waterways that would make any government official slobber. Over five trillion dollars’ worth of trade goes through the South China Sea, with much of it being oil exported from the Middle East. China makes the claim that the land in these disputed waters belongs to them because of a demarcation line that was drawn during the Sino-Japanese war of 1894. It’s called the nine-dash line and it impedes on the territory of many countries surrounding the region. According to the UN Law of the Sea, a country's territorial water goes out 200 nautical miles; countries have all the rights to the resources in those regions. Currently, China has claimed much of the land that, internationally, is not legally under their dominion. Since 2014, China has been dumping thousands of tons of rocks and sand onto shallow reefs in the South China Sea to create complex, militarized artificial islands. This is called "dredging" and it can cost upwards of $10 per cubic yard: not a small price considering the hundreds of acres that are dumped everyday into these artificial islands. Fiery Cross islands contain a full sized track, tennis courts and even numerous basketball courts; they are in for the long haul. Artificial islands allow the Chinese government access to the entire area of the South China Sea: whether it be by plane, ship or missile. Regular naval patrols are commonplace from the militarized islands to act upon their claims and to keep the 190 trillion square feet of natural gas to themselves. The United States has responded aggressively to the military patrols and territory impingement via ‘freedom patrols’ that the current administration prides itself on. Tensions between the United States and China has never been higher as the US begins to urge Xi Jinping to decide who he will side with in many issues, whether it be the South China Sea or North Korea.