Logic Raises a Clear Target: Salafi Violence in Yemen

Invaluable as research may be, logic raises a clear target. Attack the target at will, but don’t pretend it is not there.

Events are blips chained together in a complex, adaptive array never visible in its entirety at a glance. One narrative to make comprehensible the events in Yemen over the past year holds that Riyadh sent its military into Yemen “to fight the Houthis.” Perhaps, but it takes a lot of explaining to sell this intricate interpretation of events. By Ockham’s Razor (shave away extraneous detail), when A.) a semi-Salafi regime intervenes in a civil war, with B.) the readily predictable and predicted impact of aggravating the level of social chaos and thus empowering a range of semi-independent Salafi rebel groups, the burden of proof rests on the shoulders of he who would argue that A was not done for the purpose of achieving B.

Is this attempt to reduce the complexity of Yemen to a clear logical statement still overly detailed? Shave again:

If a regime implements a long-term policy that steadily and visibly empowers a particular faction within the regime, then the longer the policy is maintained, the greater the justification for assuming that the regime supported said faction from the start.

Perhaps Riyadh cannot or at least does not bother to differentiate among its various foreign policy goals, e.g., defeating the Houthi effort to create a Yemeni state independent of Saudi Arabia or at least defend its own autonomy, opposing the rising regional influence of Iran, dominating regional oil and gas reserves, and radicalizing Sunni Islam. In truth, at a certain level of analysis and for a certain period of time, these goals are not mutually exclusive. Nevertheless, one cannot have four goals all of which are primary, and the Saudi Yemen war has consistently benefited only the goal of empowering the most radical branch of Sunni Islam–that branch espoused by the Islamic State and al Qua’ida.

Perhaps some Saudi officials are primarily pursuing a greater hydrocarbon empire. Perhaps some Western officials and CEO’s, not contemplating too deeply the risk of that war backfiring and destabilizing the whole Saudi sand castle, think they will benefit by arming this hydrocarbon empire. But, by Ockham’s Razor, the core truth of the Saudi Yemen war appears to be the over-riding desire in Riyadh to control and radicalize Sunni Islam. The simple “Ockham’s Razor” line of reasoning proves nothing; it is not intended to do so. It is intended to provide a logical starting point for analysis when evidence is inconclusive. The truth may indeed be far more complicated, but to the degree that the simple inference that radicalizing Islam is the core Saudi goal has validity, then the West should ask itself if a more radicalized Islam is indeed the outcome that it desires; the West should ask itself if a destroyed Yemen or a Yemen ruled by al Qua’ida in the Arabic Peninsula would indeed be a good thing…for those are the outcomes that the year-long Saudi military campaign in Yemen is in the process of achieving, and by Ockham’s Razor, the world seems logically entitled to infer that such an outcome was intended from the beginning.

Regarding world affairs, innocence is a claim that cannot be taken  on faith.


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