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When Only Bad Solutions Exist

It is worth considering the consequences if the United States and the United Kingdom were to further entangle themselves in the Middle East conflict. What if they started to launch a series of strikes against the Houthis, not only from the air but also landing troops on the ground?
No matter how we look at it, only bad and worse outcomes can be expected in Yemen as our newspaper learned from military intelligence sources. The best-case scenario would be if, after recent attacks, the Houthis ceased their actions against Israel and the (mostly American) warships in the region, but the chances of this happening are slim.

Behind the rebels stands Iran, who would likely disapprove of such developments but in fact, it is not even in the Islamist terrorist organization’s interest to show any weakness, as that would diminish their potential in the eyes of foreigners.
Just as a gun hanging on the wall in a play isn’t there by accident, the Houthis have not amassed their air arsenal just to save for a distant future. They want to use it - and as events of the past two months show, they will, even at the risk of sinking their ships.

It is noteworthy that while an American missile interceptor or "targeted" missile might cost a million or slightly more dollars each, the devices endorsed by Tehran are only a fraction of the cost, running a few thousand or maybe ten to twenty thousand dollars. And while here we undoubtedly see high-tech facing a mid-level computing force, still (with a twist on the Hungarian saying), a huge number of geese can only be defeated by the pig at an exorbitant price.
And that's if it can be done completely, because just because a warship has X number of ultra-modern missiles, Y amount of marines and highly trained personnel on board does not mean they can’t be surprised or suffer losses. We have seen enough instances in history where weaker forces, especially those underestimated, have inflicted such losses/blows on the more powerful one that it took a long time for the latter to recover from the shock.

A bit closer to home, there’s the Russian-Ukrainian war, farther away, Israel's battle in Gaza. And not too far off, there stands the total Western, but especially American failure in Afghanistan against the sword-wielding, bearded and ancient-touting Taliban "mob."

Our source notably highlighted that it is an election year in America, and a potential maritime fiasco would not bode well for the incumbent president, who is already not very popular. People over there are highly sensitive to coffins draped with the national flag - and at such times, even a "half" coffin would be too many, our informant said with more specificity.

Returning to Yemen, the United States and its allies in the region could of course deploy their precise air forces and missiles - but there are a few unpleasant questions associated with this as well. The first and most unavoidable is that the Houthis are not going elsewhere for concealment. Practically, this means that the majority of their military facilities and warehouses are located in populated areas. A destroyed ammunition/missile depot can only look epic on a movie screen - in reality, there are no slow-motion flames or sharp shrapnel conveniently avoiding the peaceful citizens, but only terrible destruction - our source emphasized. The sight of civilian casualties, especially children, is certainly not very heartening, not to mention the double standards often employed by the West, which could hardly be more evident.

The indirect effect, which could arise from the potential loss of peaceful civilians in the Muslim world, is also difficult to predict. Estimating this would in itself fill many articles, so our informant only pointed out one aspect. America’s standing in the Arab world is on the level of an amateur, and although the Secretary of State is constantly trying to put out fires, it doesn’t seem to be working very well. If in such a state a few civilian casualties occurred, especially children, it would create an incredibly uncomfortable situation. This would be the case even though Iran and its proxy organizations are not particularly liked in many parts of the region.

Not insignificantly, it is also worth imagining a heated conversation at the UN between representatives of the USA and Russia, where one brings up Ukraine and the other Yemen. It will be interesting, to say the least.

According to our source, even an eventual, limited ground operation would be just one of the many bad solutions. Although the exit of the Red Sea is only about twenty-something kilometers wide, so seemingly if someone captured a "narrow" strip of shore, the Houthis could be successfully blocked, the question remains: What would the price of such an operation be? In both human and material terms? Furthermore, it’s worth considering that maintaining a stable presence there would be necessary to ensure the safety of commercial shipping. In addition, it is predictable that Islamist terrorist organizations would not settle for defeat and would continuously harass Western forces there with their own methods.

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