The relationship between the U.S. and Iran continues to deteriorate following Saturday’s missile attacks against the USS Mason from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen. This latest round of attacks, the third in a week, come after the U.S. fired five Tomahawk missiles targeted at mobile radar sites used to aim the missiles. Despite the insistence of the U.S. military that these missiles were the work of Iran-backed Houthis, the rebels deny these allegations entirely. These retaliatory strikes mark the first time the U.S. has taken direct action in the year-long civil war in Yemen that has killed and wounded tens of thousands and displaced as many as three million people.
This appears to be the beginning of some unsettling developments in yet another conflict in the Middle East, one that this nation wants nothing to do with but seems to be getting more and more involved with. To shamelessly quote Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, “Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”
The U.S. has a terrible track record when it comes to its activities in the region, including a war that led to the creation of the world’s “most successful terror brand.” As the war in Afghanistan, the longest conflict in the 240-year history of our nation, continues to drag on, it is questionable at best to think our political leaders have a plan that will provide anything but more of the same for our efforts in Yemen. Forgive my pessimism, but when considering the past half a century of American foreign policy and military efforts, it seems unlikely we’ll arrive at a conclusion that doesn’t end in billions of dollars misspent, and tens of thousands of lives lost or forever altered. In other words, Yemen promises to become a wasted effort with an outcome we couldn’t conjure in even our worst nightmares, or exactly what we now face in Iraq after almost a decade of American action.
I’m not saying we should turn the other cheek; an attack on one of our military vessels is an attack on American sovereign soil. That being stated, our political and military leadership needs to step very carefully when considering an escalation of American military involvement in what seems to be an endless series of conflicts and wars in the region.
As our dependence on the black tar that runs beneath the sands of these unstable nations lessens with every technological advancement in energy and with the discovery of new sources of fuel within our borders and within those of our ideological allies and neighbors, the less relevant the Middle East becomes. Saudi Arabia has wisely begun planning for this. Their trillion dollar Aramco IPO will be coming soon to an investment bank near you. This is also something that our leadership at the Capitol and the Pentagon should consider very, very carefully when seeking to answer the questions regarding these errant missile strikes.
With this in mind, the Houthis sending out their surface-to-surface greeting cards aimed at our hyper-advanced warships may deserve a response fitting the inevitable insignificance of the region. As Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” Wise words for our leaders to heed.