By Bonnie Kristian
Yemen is the much-ignored third (or maybe fifth?) wheel of American imbroglio in the Mideast, but recent days have seen marked escalation of hostilities in the impoverished country, and with it, an escalation of U.S. entanglement. What has not escalated is the Obama Administration’s authority to wage this imprudent war, which is by no possible stretch of legal imagination permitted by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) the White House claims as flimsy legal cover for its other undeclared and endless conflicts.
The newest development of American intervention is a series of skirmishes between Shiite Houthi rebels (the militants the Sunni Saudi-led and U.S.-supported coalition opposes) and two U.S. Navy Destroyers. It began on Sunday, when the rebels fired two missiles in an American ship’s direction but missed. In response, the Destroyer sent back three missiles and one decoy of its own. Then, after militants launched an additional failed missile on Wednesday, another U.S. Navy Destroyer launched three Tomahawk missiles Thursday morning, taking out three coastal radar sites used by Houthi forces to direct their strikes.
These missiles mark the first time the United States has directly intervened in Yemen’s Saudi-manipulated civil war—previously, all U.S. intervention came in the form of assistance to Saudi coalition troops. Those forces are still active with plenty of strikes of their own. In fact, Sunday’s exchange of missiles came close on the heels a Saudi-led strike that killed more than 140 people and injured at least 525 more on Saturday when it made a direct hit on a funeral. "The place has been turned into a lake of blood," said one rescue worker on the scene.
In the wake of that strike, Riyadh promised investigation but refused to take responsibility—even though, as the Associated Press dryly notes, the Saudi “coalition battling rebels in Yemen is the only force with air power in the conflict,” so no other responsibility is possible.
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Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at Defense Priorities. She is a weekend editor at The Week and a columnist at Rare, and her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, Politico, Relevant Magazine, The Hill, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.