On March 25, 2015, the government of Saudi Arabia made good on its promise to strike at Houthi positions “in defense of the legitimate government of Yemen,” launching airstrikes to limit and turn back the advance of the militia. At the same time, Iran has continued to provide logistical and lethal aid to those very same Houthis, which has pushed Saudi Arabia to turn to Pakistan for aid, asking them to provide ground troops for any ground invasion.
Some reports are saying that Pakistan is being pulled in two directions, with the government of Iran also appealing to them, suggesting the two nations work together to resolve the conflict. Pakistan has resisted the overtures of both, choosing to bide their time for now. All the while, the United States is left largely blind or reliant on our ‘allies’ to provide the majority of the ground truth in the region. Historically, this has not worked out well for us. Given our recent decision to evacuate and withdraw our official presence in places like Libya and Yemen, are we setting ourselves up for a disastrous cycle of “stuck on repeat?”
When I was in Marine Corps recruit training at Parris Island, South Carolina, one of the myriad bits of knowledge that were force fed to us through a fire hose pertained to general orders, of the which the Corps has 11 (each branch has a variation of the same thing). Number five of the Corp’s version states that a Marine on duty will, “Quit my post only when properly relieved.” Pretty simple concept, right? You might have to piss like a racehorse, but you had better maintain that discipline and hold the line until your relief gets to you and you have properly handed off the duty to him or her. Sounds trivial, but read up on how skilled the Apache and Vietcong were at finding that spot in the line where a sentry was asleep or not at his post—and the havoc they wreaked once they got through—and you might appreciate why this portion of the orders is so important.
The same applies on a strategic level. Most nations (North Korea comes to mind as an exception) desire to have at the very least a diplomatic relationship with other nations, and the enduring symbol of that relationship is the embassy, consulate, or in the case of Taiwan, the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (an unofficial but effective presence). These structures represent, and are in fact little ‘islands’ of, that nation, with all of the laws, privileges, restrictions, and rights that govern it back home. Most foreigners know that if they run into a problem while abroad, and if their country has representation in that area, they can go to their embassy, consulate, etc., and ask for aid. Some countries maintain more than just a diplomatic presence in a country, keeping a military presence as well. Think of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, which reopened in 2008—five years after the invasion and at the height of the occupation.