By Patrick Bahzad
"Morality is the weakness of the brain. It can be dangerous
when it is not alleviated by thought and reason"
(from A Season in Hell, by Arthur Rimbaud)
As explained in part (1) of this piece, President Trump is facing some tough challenges if he intends to unsettle the "empire by proxies" that Tehran has established in the Middle-East. By chosing Yemen as the starting point for his roll back policy of Iranian influence, his team has picked a country that is going down the road other failed States have taken before in the region. But even though Yemen might be the weak link in the Iranian chain of "choke points" spread all around the Arabian peninsula, there is no guarantee of success for the new US administration.
A close advisor to President Trump recently said the President would take on Islamic radicals, whether they are "Jihadists or Khomeinists", meaning whether they are ISIS/AQ or the IRGC and its surrogates. Taking the morale high ground and wanting to confront Evil is nothing new in American politics. From that point of view, the administration's statements do not exactly come as a surprise. There has been the "Empire of Evil" and the "Axis of Evil" before. In both these cases though, there was a strategy - however flawed and misguided - underpinning the moral claim, which seems to be totally lacking today.
Revenge is a dish best served cold
It is hard to imagine an administration that has already shown its lack of preparation on such basic issues as immigration law having a well thought through strategy for any kind of US intervention or operation. If the recent SEAL Team 6 raid is any indication to go by, we are in for a rough ride.
Taking risks is in the nature of military arts, but when giving the green light for anything like this, you need to carefully weigh the prospective gains against the risks incurred. Getting the scalp of a senior AQAP may certainly justify putting US operators at risk. Does it necessarily mean you try and have a go at the next best occasion, getting into something that has potentially serious implications in case anything goes wrong ?
I surely can't make that call, but it seems the first raid authorized by the President has already lost the US some good will among the Saudi backed "legitimate" government of Yemen, as well as among Central Yemeni tribes that were not overly hostile to US interests. This is a game where patience trumps bravado, and you'll have to bite your lip more often than not, missing out on a good chance to get a bad guy out of the way.
Does Donald Trump understand this ? Do his closest advisors ? Only time will tell. But if they think "intelligence fusion cells", "combined joint task forces" and "kill lists" alone are going to get us anywhere near the goal the President is contemplating, they are deeply mistaken. Kinetic actions have their place in any overall strategy mixing military assets and foreign policy efforts. However, they are only means to an end. They are not a self serving purpose as such, even less so in Yemen.