Art by Peau Porotesano
It’s been four years since conflict in the Middle East and Northern Africa began with the Arab Spring, yet not all of these conflicts have come to resolution. Even as our troops return from Afghanistan, new factions and conflicts have risen to challenge leaders and governments that have hoarded power for decades. Yemen is one of these countries.
These conflicts are opportunities for the United States to step in and help nations in turmoil, to help reassert the balance. But it’s not our place this time. These are conflicts we don’t fully understand because we don’t understand the people who are fighting or why they’re fighting. No side is right; both sides are wrong.
According to an article called “Yemen Fast Facts,” organized by the CNN Library for CNN, the Yemenites were inspired by neighboring countries’ uprisings. Almost two million people demonstrated and demanded the resignation of then-president Abdullah Saleh. In 2012, he resigned and passed power on to his Vice President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
On Jan. 20, Hadi’s palace was taken by the Houthis, a Shiite minority, who forced him and his cabinet members to resign. Then, on Feb. 21, after a month of house arrest, Hadi escaped to the South, claimed his presidency was still valid and began calling for aid from his allies in neighboring countries. The civil war goes on.
This conflict is one the U.S. has stayed out of, and it should remain so. Yemen is in unrest because of marginalization and religious differences, which is a conflict we cannot solve. We’ve tried before in Iraq, and that war cost us more than we thought it would. We, as a powerful nation, cannot waltz into other countries’ business haphazardly and try to assert democracy. Nor is our diplomacy the solution to the Yemenites’ issues.
According to costsofwar.org, a total of 6,802 American troops have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from March 2003 to April 2014. However, the costs span beyond death. According to an article by Geoff Dyer and Chloe Sorvino called, “$1trillion cost of longest U.S. war hastens retreat from military intervention,” our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have cost us $1 trillion so far, and will cost more with veterans’ healthcare. Not accounted in these costs are the thousands who suffer from PTSD and depression as a result of the wars’ incredible violence.
With this many soldiers lost and suffering, how can we justify more war in the Middle East, especially since we (civilians) never really knew what we were fighting for in Iraq, and only vaguely knew in Afghanistan?
It’s not right for us to say “peace is the only way” when we are a country that resorts to war when it fits our agenda, when we gain something from it. Too long has America involved itself in ancient issues that will only be resolved when those who feel marginalized and those in power, meet in the middle. We cannot make them do that.
The Arab Spring has proved that if people are unsatisfied, marginalized and poor, they will fight no matter what they are told.
Limiting our influence in other countries permits them to solve their own conflicts and to let the people in their land choose the path for themselves. This is difficult for us since we have established ourselves as the “protectors of democracy,” but we haven’t always allied with the most peaceful or wisest leaders of countries in turmoil. We’ve supported leaders who would, in turn, support U.S. Capitalism or in some way fulfill our needs.
When thinking about our role as a country, are we not wealthy enough to help other countries get back on their feet? Does it not have the strength to defend the weak? Of course we do, but the instant we begin deciding what is best for any country is when we’ve taken it too far. As a country, we can’t play God with our democracy, and not every country is our child that needs to be force-fed Uncle Sam Soup and Freedom Crunchies. Yet many countries do need our assistance to build infrastructure or provide medical aid or technology.
It’s also not in our best interests to abolish our military, and though America should be wiser in the conflicts in which we choose to fight, we cannot ignore that we face threats to our security and without our military we are helpless.
Follow Zach on Twitter: @zachryrowsh