Are We Facing All-Out War?

A US Navy F/A-18 fighter jet taking off at night prior to the 2024 Yemeni airstrikes. Photograph Source: U.S. Air Force – Public Domain

The long-anticipated coordinated airstrikes carried out by the United States and the United Kingdom against Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen on Friday were a response to several weeks of attacks targeting commercial cargo ships in the Red Sea. The U.S. and UK have warned that the Houthi attacks threaten the free passage of goods through the region, which in turn could destabilise the global economy.

The U.S. military fired missiles from ships and submarines, and backed those attacks with airstrikes by U.S. and British warplanes, on Houthi sites housing drones, ballistic and cruise missiles and coastal radar stations. This anticipated military action, which came after several repeated warnings by both the U.S. and UK, has raised questions of whether the U.S. or even the word as whole is moving closer to a global conflict.

The Houthis, whose official name is Ansar Allah, have vowed to that the U.S. and British strikes won’t go without “punishment or retaliation.”

The Houthis, a Yemeni militia group named after their founder, Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, emerged in the 1980s in opposition to Saudi Arabia’s religious influence in Yemen. With an estimated 20,000 fighters, the militant group runs most of the west of the country and controls the Red Sea coastline.

The airstrikes signify a notable escalation of U.S. involvement in the Middle East and is potentially the most significant escalation in a conflict that has the potential to spread throughout the region. Just last week, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken embarked on his fourth mission to the Middle East in three months, with the objective of containing the spill-over effects from the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Some foreign affairs and defense experts suggest that the U.S. military’s response may not dissuade the Houthi rebels, which has endured and outlasted years of bombings carried out by a coalition of Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The Houthi rebels have expressed their determination to continue their attacks until Israel ends its military operations against Hamas.

Not everyone was pleased with the decision to strike back at Houthi targets.

Progressive Democrats in Congress excoriated U.S. President Joe Biden Thursday for failing to seek congressional authorization before launching the airstrikes.

“These strikes are in direct response to unprecedented Houthi attacks against international maritime vessels in the Red Sea — including the use of anti-ship ballistic missiles for the first time in history,” Biden said in a statement. “More than 50 nations have been affected in 27 attacks on international commercial shipping.”

The Biden administration also defended the strikes, carried out with the United Kingdom and backed by the Netherlands, Bahrain, Australia and Canada, declaring that they were launched “in accordance with the inherent right of individual and collective self-defense, consistent with the UN Charter.”

American lawmakers, however, challenged that justification, arguing that Biden violated Article 1 of the Constitution — which requires Congress to first authorize military action — by side-stepping Congressional approval. Biden informed Congress of the move but did not request approval.

Progressive Reps. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich, and Cori Bush, D-Mo., called Biden’s actions unconstitutional and asserted Americans don’t want war.

Tlaib wrote on X that Biden is “violating Article I of the Constitution by carrying out airstrikes in Yemen without congressional approval. The American people are
tired of endless war.”

Bush wrote on X that Biden “can’t launch airstrikes in Yemen without congressional approval. This is illegal and violates Article I of the Constitution. The people do not want more of our taxpayer dollars going to endless war and the killing of civilians. Stop the bombing and do better by us.”

Rep. Pramila Jayapal, the Progressive Caucus chair, also denounced the administration, writing on X that Biden’s decision was “an unacceptable violation of the Constitution.”

Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., also expressed his displeasure at the decision, writing on X, “The President needs to come to Congress before launching a strike against the Houthis in Yemen and involving us in another middle east conflict…”

These Democrat lawmakers are correct in their assessment and they should be lauded for their effort to hold Biden accountable for sidestepping Congress on such an important decision. Now is not the time to take America into another years-long war and while the Houthi rebels must be dealt with, there are other avenues, such as diplomacy, that have worked in the past and should be put to the test here.

Chloe Atkinson is a climate change activist and consultant on global climate affairs.