Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Meal Worm Foreign Policy

We are pushing for a ceasefire in Yemen, which demonstrates a few fascinating features about our foreign policy.

So America said we wanted a ceasefire in Yemen where our ally Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition with our support to defeat Iranian-backed Shia factions:

The United States and Britain called on Sunday for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire in Yemen to end violence between Houthis and the government, which is supported by Gulf states.

A Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has come under heavy criticism since an air strike this month on a funeral gathering in the Yemeni capital Sanaa that killed 140 people according to a United Nations' estimate and 82 according to the Houthis.

We did get a three-day truce:

The warring parties in Yemen have agreed to a 72-hour cease-fire that will take effect shortly before midnight Wednesday, the U.N. special envoy to Yemen said.

Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said he hopes the temporary truce can lead to "permanent and lasting end to the conflict."

One, our pursuit of a ceasefire comes after attempts by Iran-backed forces in Yemen to sink our warships in the Red Sea. Which indicates that despite not hitting our ships, the attacks worked by getting us to back reining in our Saudi allies to the benefit of Iran.

Two, we are apparently going to enforce a red line over a mistaken Saudi attack on a funeral long after we abandoned our red line on Syrian chemical weapons attacks on Assad's enemies when it became apparent how much we'd have to do to enforce that empty declaration by our president.

The body count at Assad's hands in Syria is astronomical while the body count in Yemen is actually pretty small--and even when Saudi weapons have done the killing, the Saudis don't bear the legal responsibility for those deaths if the Houthi rebels deliberately use human shields to protect their military assets.

Say, just where are the European human shield volunteers, anyway? Shouldn't they be flocking to Syria by now?

And three, isn't this a fascinating result of a president who wants to "lead from behind?"

I did warn that allies capable of acting without us taking the lead can do things we don't like.

Yet that isn't quite what we have here. We've backed the Saudi effort with logistics, and you have to admit that for an administration that doesn't want to act, having an ally take action should be a feature rather than a bug.

And here we are calling for a ceasefire in a war that our ally has been willing to fight and which they are slowly winning after checking the enemy advances that threatened to put Iran-backed forces at the southern entry to the Red Sea.

We don't have a foreign policy. We have a foreign policy bureaucracy that reacts to unpleasant stimuli by changing directions to avoid the unpleasantness of the moment.