The Houthi government in western Yemen is the only one in the world to effectively resist Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza, and in so doing they are showing that the US is no longer all-powerful.
Tarik Cyril Amar (@TarikCyrilAmar) is a historian from Germany, currently at Koç University, Istanbul, expert on Ukraine, Russia, and Europe, and the author of “The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv. A Borderland City between Stalinists, Nazis, and Nationalists.”
Cross-posted from Tarik Cyril Amar’s substack
With Israel and the West committing genocide against the Palestinians to ethnically cleanse Gaza, the only outside (de facto) government that has lived up to the elementary demands of the most basic ethics – as well as the UN 1948 UN Genocide Convention and the 1998 Rome Statute – by taking direct military action to confront the perpetrators is that of Yemen. Otherwise, the heroic Palestinian Resistance defenders of Gaza stand alone.
(In Lebanon, Hezbollah has also interfered with Israel, but while powerful, it is not a government, de facto or internationally recognized, and it has been careful to limit its response, so as not to expose its country to mass murderous retaliation, as threatened by Israel and thus, in effect, by the West.)
That is the dystopian hell world we really live in: Its strongest (for now) states commit and support a genocide and ethnic cleansing war of extermination, proudly announced by the Israeli perpetrators and broadcast in detail for the whole world to watch in real time. Rich-world war tourists, meanwhile, get on planes to get their slice of the mass murder action and post about it on X.
It is left to Yemen, a poor and small country, itself recently ravaged by a brutal war of bombing and starvation, conducted under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and, of course, backed by the West, to do what all of us should be doing: help Palestine and fight Israel. It is an additional irony that the governments that perpetrate the genocide, whether directly or by being complicit, deny recognition to the one government that acts according to international law and intervenes.
The Ansar Allah movement – often referred to as the Houthis – that really controls most of Yemen has fired missiles at Israel. While these attacks have no discernible military effect, Ansar Allah has also found a real Achilles Heel of both Israel and its Western accomplices: Using Yemen’s location, its forces are disrupting most shipping to Israel’s vital port of Eilat, creating “chaos in the Red Sea,” as the New York Times deplores, and cutting off a “lifeline” for Israel, according to Newsweek. Eilat’s trade dropped by 85 percent during the first days of Yemen’s intervention.
And since this tactic targets not only the Red Sea, site of 12 percent of global maritime traffic, but indirectly, also the Suez Canal farther north, it has proven highly effective not only in striking at Israel but also the international community that fails to stop or, in the case of the West, is complicit in the genocide. As of 22 December, Red Sea through-traffic had dropped by 40 percent. Forcing ships onto costly alternative routes, Yemen is hitting global trade and profits, and the price of oil is affected as well. Knock-on effects are likely to keep multiplying, especially since Ansar Allah is making it clear they will not desist, even under American pressure. Indeed, they have warnedWashinton that if it dares invade Yemen, worse than the fiascos in Afghanistan or Vietnam will befall it. Going by experience of Houthi fighting morale, grit, and persistence, that is not an empty threat.
Washington has struggled to find an answer. After years of unsuccessful attempts to subdue Ansar Allah, even Saudi Arabia is scared to interfere with it, which means another proxy war on Yemen would be hard to pull off.
Yet American efforts to put together an international naval force to battle frightful Yemen on the seas, have run into shallow waters: The so-called operation “Prosperity Guardian” is officially a go. International shipping giant Maersk – the second-largest container shipping company globally – has even announced that it (sort of) feels safe again in the Red Sea neighborhood.
Yet, in reality, “Prosperity Guardian” is barely afloat. Since its announcement as, in essence, a grand international armada, it has mostly made news by being rejected and abandoned. Important countries, including (in alphabetical order) France, India, Spain, and Saudi Arabia, have either declined to join, refused to put their ships under US command, or publicly signaled their distance.
This is not a total defeat for the American initiative, and it is also too early to predict its future. Yet we can already say that the operation’s beginning has been a bad embarrassment at least. The reason for that fact is that “Prosperity Guardian” is, of course, not a purely military affair, but at least as much a PR operation. This was Washington once again trying to posture as a leader of the “good guys,” the “civilized world,” the “rules-bound” brigade – in short, the self-appointed white-hat team everyone wants to be on and seen with because it’s so pretty, and also, it will clobber anyone trying to resist it. That – the standard narrative bullshit offensive – is the part that sank to the bottom before a shot was fired. Because Ansar Allah is scary.
There is an important and perhaps easily overlooked lesson here. Even those of us awake enough to know that America is a very evil empire, addicted to dominance, militarism, violence, and lying, may sometimes be missing something. The US has such a knack of devastating those societies it targets that it is easy to see nothing else: They make a desert, again and again and again, and they hardly even bother anymore to call it peace, to paraphrase a famous speech ascribed by Tacitus to an anti-Roman resistance leader.
Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq,… and the list is far from complete. US power to punish – and if not traumatize and subdue than traumatize and cripple – by laying waste is so overwhelming that it has a stunning effect far beyond its victims. It almost seems as if this empire can only win, because even when it loses, as it does quite often, it still makes an example of those who defied it. Ask in Afghanistan, for instance.
But it is also doing something else: With all its brutality and cruelty, Washington is also constantly enlarging the camp not only of those who hate it, and for very good reasons, but those to whom it has done its worst, whether by lethal economic or even more lethal military warfare – and who nonetheless are still standing. Ansar Allah is a classic example of this. So are Afghanistan, Iran, Venezuela, and, in a much bigger way, actually, even China and Russia.
The USA, in short, is creating, even fostering not only its own worst but toughest enemies: leaderships and whole societies who know exactly how vicious America is, but who have lost their fear. And not only have they lost their fear; they have also learned something very important about the big global bully: That, as every state and empire before in history, it has weaknesses, in fact glaring and growing ones.
That is the problem about building your place in the world on dumb violence, more dumb violence, and then some more dumb violence: You will never stomp out all the opposition. And those you don’t stomp out, will get more determined, savvier, and stronger. What America does not kill, may one day come back to kill America. And it will only have itself to blame.