Yemen, a Veto, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

The Yemen War Powers legislation will soon be struck down by executive order. What moral sacrifices will the White House make to avoid economic retribution from Saudi Arabia?

Mike Co
Mike Co
Apr 15, 2019 · 4 min read
Saudi Arabian King Salman and Donald Trump

Donald J. Trump, the 47th President of the United States of America, is a polarizing ruler. Judgment aside, Trump likely wants to see the United States economy prosper for the sake of reelection. An upcoming veto, his second after vetoing a measure against emergency border wall funding, will prove that morality may be a pale priority whenever opposed to economic welfare.

Such is often the way of the world, especially in real politics.

The high road is often fraught with economic and existential obstacles; in life, and especially in a world of billions of people incited by millennia of tribal warfare. In Yemen today, over 50,000 people have been killed over the course of a civil war, with contingent forces directly supported by Saudi Arabia, the United States’ close historical ally.

In fact, the United States has itself been directly involved in this warfare, according to passed Congress legislation set to soon be vetoed by the White House:

Since March 2015, members of the United States Armed Forces have been involved in hostilities between the Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi opposition in Yemen. Providing to the Saudi-led coalition aerial targeting assistance, intelligence sharing, and mid-flight aerial refueling, the United States provides invaluable assistance to the Saudi coalition.

In the near future, Trump is likely to veto Senate Joint Resolution 7, a bill seeking to end all U.S. involvement in Yemen, after its passage in Congress on April 4th. Authored by Senator Bernie Sanders, the self-declared socialist who is also the current Democratic frontrunner for 2020, S.R. 7 seeks to end direct U.S. involvement in any Yemen hostilities. By citing that only Congress can authorize War, the bill will likely be stricken down by the White House:

According to the White House statement, the United States is not directly involved in the Yemen conflict, thereby contradicting the Democrat bill. It’s really a philosophical difference. Aerial refueling, intelligence sharing, and logistical support to assist Saudi strike forces is not the exact same as U.S. boots on the sand.

In case of such logical guilt by association, trillion dollar relations and economic support for Saudi Arabia can also be considered a proxy cause of the Yemen conflict. International relations are always more complex than that. It may not make sense to assume so far, since as with all things in the Middle East, the ideological map of the deadly Yemen conflict is labyrinthine:

The military situation in Yemen, 2019. Green is Houthi opposition. Red is the legacy Yemen government supported by Saudi Arabia & the U.S. (Wikipedia)

The battle lines of Yemeni hearts and minds are in and of itself drawn by Saudi Arabia’s (and the United States’) involvement. The Houthi opposition forces slogan is actually, “God is great, death to the U.S., death to Israel, curse the Jews, and victory for Islam.

Houthi insurgency was radicalized from claims that the legacy Yemeni government is corrupted by Saudi American interests. To add fuel to the ideological flames, the fire is exacerbated by supernational Sunni vs. Shia & Saudi Arabia vs. Iran tribal conflicts. Throw elements of Al-Qaeda & ISIS into the fray, and one might hope that Saudi Arabia & the U.S. are at least targeting the most dangerous people in the wartorn region.

Hopefully, the United States has been primarily assisting with respect to targeting the terrorist hotbeds of which the region is overwhelmed. Urban warfare, however, is always fraught with collateral damage and is therefore a terrorist’s most effective weapon. Propaganda is empowered every time a supernational invader like Saudi America levels an apartment complex. Yet it is also the very definition of evil when ISIS or Al Qaida or others host military operations from a civilian school or hospital.

Despite an intelligence operation’s best intentions at rooting out international terrorism, it’s a historical fact that urban warfare is fraught with ideological peril. Every civilian killed inadvertently creates ten future terrorists. The United States can continue fighting ISIS veterans in the wastes of Iraq, but should indeed scale down any direct military support for conflicts elsewhere. Starting with Yemen.

However, there would be grievous economic consequences if the Yemen bill were to be passed by the President. The United States is beholden to Saudi Arabia in trillions of ways. Millions of Americans would suffer if the scales between America and Saudi Arabia became imbalanced and oil prices were to soar. Billions of dollars of Saudi capital would flee American companies. Shocks to this relationship would have drastic economic consequences.

The Khashoggi tragedy was enough of a public relations disaster for the Kingdom to catalyze S.R. 7 being passed by Congress in the first place. It won’t be enough for the President to sign the Yemen bill, however.

So in the case of the Yemen War Powers Resolution Act, Donald Trump’s veto will forfeit the moral high ground in favor of economics. In the future, I hope all parties can agree on pursuing economic independence so that morality is not so easily sacrificed in the future.

Dialogue & Discourse

News and ideas worthy of discourse.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store