I am willing to concede, sometimes, circumstances or aggressive adversaries can make war unavoidable.
Most of the time though, in my experience, there are other alternatives, and in my opinion, they are almost always preferable to warfare.
War kills and injures people, and destroys their homes, cities, and much of the infrastructure that makes their countries viable places to live. But what war kills most definitively is peace.
Once a place is put into a state of war, where everything is ruled by force, it is very hard to get free of that. Unless armed forces leave the area, which almost never happens; or give up their weaponry, which is almost as rare an occurrence; or submit to some greater civil authority, also rare, civilians must live under a continual threat of violence and coercion, which no one would call peace.
This is why I always say, “If you think war is the answer, you should ask yourself a few more questions.” Like — What are the goals here? And how likely is it that force will secure them?
In the case of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen the goals were essentially three:
- To disempower the country’s once-overthrown, but still persistent would-be dictator former President Ali Abdullah Saleh
- To re-restrain the influence of Shi’ite Houthi tribal forces from northern Yemen, and their accused Shi’ite puppet-master Iran … and
- To restore to at least limited power, the Saudis’, and their international allies’ own puppet President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi
A year of hideous force, a large-scale air war and a smaller effort at ground warfare has accomplished none of those goals. The Houthis, backed by Saleh’s considerable personal army hold the capitol Sana’a, several other cities, and much of the countryside, while the so-called Interim President Hadi and some of his ministers are virtual prisoners, planted by their foreign backers in the fractured city of Aden, where they are menaced not only by the Houthi and Saleh forces, but suicide bombers from the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
So it may be time for another hard question – is there a way out of this nightmare?
There is a truce proposed to begin April 10, with peace talks to follow in Kuwait, starting April 18. But, as I noted at the top, wars are a lot easier to start than to finish.