Is Yemen just the first anti-terror ally to abandon Trump?

YemenWe’ve lost Yemen. The first casualty in Trump’s embrace of the global fashion trend isolationism is a Middle East nation and key player in America’s war on terror, one that has continued to help us despite many years of US drone strikes that have killed civilians and flattened villages.

President 45 ran on a promise to make America great again. Apparently his idea of greatness is being the isolated curmudgeon atop a crumbling ivory tower, content to look down at the world he has forsaken and telling himself that he’s better for it if only because he’ll be dead before the unalterable waves of time finally destroy the weak foundation of his self-aggrandizement.

From the start, one of the few things he hasn’t flopped on is the vision of one man — and by extension, the nation that one man rules — striking out alone to get what’s his. Trump’s attacked a lot of things that make America great — unprotecting public lands, encouraging discrimination based on race and gender and belief, showing that qualifications and preparation are nothing compared to having a ton of money, attacking basic legal processes, threatening the free press, insulting and barring immigrants, attacking the judiciary — but the unwavering theme on the international arena has been that we don’t need nobody. Donald Trump is the ballhog on the playground who throws up airballs, then yells at you for not setting the pick right, eventually throwing the ball over the fence after everybody heckles his lack of game and stomps off.

YeMen in Black (hawk down)

Forty-five launched his first military operation a few weeks ago, a special forces raid on the home of an al-Qaeda Yemen leader that led to the death of America’s first commando in our mostly-drone-strike-led attacks on the nation’s cell of the once-tops terrorist organization (a drone strike in 2011 killed then-Yemen head Anwar al-Awlaki and al-Qaeda is no doubt second fiddle to ISIS and just barely ahead of al-Shabab). Trump said it was a success. That’s something most civilians may never be able to accurately gauge since there was a supposed “treasure trove” of intel secured, including “a laptop, about 10 cell phones, thumb drives, documents, and ‘a couple bags full’ of material, according to officials with knowledge of the debriefing” said Fox News. One of the main targets allegedly was Qassim al-Rimi, an al-Qaeda chief who sent Trump a mocking video after the strike. So obviously we didn’t get him (and the DOD said afterwards he was never a target)(and al-Awlaki’s brother-in-law, who lived there, was actually killed)(but local tribal leaders said the US has actually been hunting for al-Rimi for quite some time and he actually WAS the “secret” target so…).

We struck a few hospitals and schools. Killed an 8-year-old girl (though to be fair Obama’s strike on al-Awlaki killed the girl’s 16-year-old brother, both the children of the American-born al-Qaeda leader) and we hit schools/hospitals (again, this has happened plenty of times in strikes executed by the US and other nations — supposedly Saudi Arabia’s strikes on Yemen hit civilians and civilian targets 1/3 of the time). We also lost a $75M chopper (again, part of war). So maybe once we use that intel gathered we’ll strike a fatal blow at terrorism and this will go down as a victory after-the-fact, a success on par with Abottabad (where we found the info that eventually led us to Bin LAden) . But for now, there’s one glaring reason why this strike was a failure — due to poor planning that resulted in a fire-fight and the death of nearly 5 times as many civilians as militants, Yemen has banned US special operations ground missions on its soil. And may just be a first domino falling in our necessary but fragile Middle Eastern network.

The “Botched” Strike

As part of my drive to not give into my urge to just scream “oh my god we just turned the plane over to a silver spoon man-child destined to plunge all of us into a dystopian future full of poorly-educated, angry gun-wielding madmen roving the desolate highways looking for ethnics to execute for no reason other than to amuse themselves in life after procedural television and CMT,” I’m not going to say this strike was a complete botched failure. But let’s look at a couple of things to note about President 45’s first military action as Commander-in-chief:

  • This had been planned over the last year but Obama didn’t want to go for it because he didn’t want to cross the line of putting boots on the ground. Supposedly one of the the big reasons 45 pulled the trigger was because his advisors said Obama wasn’t “bold enough” to have done it.
  • President 45 said from the start that he wasn’t going to get regular intelligence briefings. He’s wanted to be hands-off, just taking info when he feels he needs it. One has to wonder how this might have affected his judgment when he launched a strike just a few weeks into his presidency. I was always taught that a person should be overprepared when encountering tricky situations.
  • Trump has enraged the Muslim Middle-Eastern world with his travel ban, telling the nations of  Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen that he considers all of their citizens potential terrorists. These are allies of ours in the war on terror, often acting against their own citizens for our benefit, which is a little like having to shoot your own kid because he’s been knocking off liquor stores. And then you tell them you see everybody from their nation as just one big mash of “bad dudes”?
  • Even more, the fact that he has lumped Yemen in with Iran, the nation currently backing a Shiite Houthi coup of the country, has gotta piss them off.

These all speak to exactly what everybody says about our new president: He prefers to fly by the seat of his pants, is a master of bluster but runs out of gas when it comes to substantive knowledge, and plans to burn every bridge we have on the hope that the fires light our way forward. That works in business, where the one who’s willing to walk away from the table and can fill the room with more bullshit than a factory ranch often wins the day. When you come to the war-table unprepared for the task at hand after having insulted everybody you depend on, though, people die and missions fail.

Just the first to leave a sinking ship?

Yemen banning US ground strikes may just be the first in a long string of American allies in the Middle East and Europe who will no longer help us in the war on terror. And when you’re fighting an international, amorphous enemy bound together more by idealogy than nationality, the worst possible strategy would be to cut yourself off from the nations who’ve fought alongside you for over a decade.

Team Trump has its eyes on one international alliance, though: America-Russia. In an ultimate irony, Iran, a nation 45 and his people have claimed is one of the biggest threats to peace in the Middle East, a nation whose people can’t come to the US because the president claims they’re all terrorists, a nation that the 45th president has “put on notice,” is in talks with the former-USSR to buy $10B worth of materiel. Which you would think would be a nonstarter in the administrations’ cozying up to General Secretary Putin. And when taken with everything else that the Yemen strike has revealed, the only logical explanation can be that there really is no plan except to perhaps let the Middle East become so engulfed in violence at home that terrorists just, like, give up on killing the infidels in America?

Or maybe, Occam’s razor being what it is, the most simple explanation is the true one: there really is no plan.



Ryan Ariano

Born and raised in Baltimore, Ryan has been kicking around the west since the first Clinton White House. Having worked all over SoCal in the surf industry, Hollywood, marketing, journalism and finance, he now hangs his hat just outside Jackson Hole where he can fulfill an addiction to ascending and descending mountains.

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