This question really isn't about the airstrikes and civilian casualties. Nor it is about the arms sales to Saudi Arabia. These are real concerns, but similar to those found in many other conflicts.

But, according to the UN, there is a famine brewing at larger scale than Ethiopia some decades back. This apparently is largely due to the Saudi coalition mounting, in effect, a naval blockade.

Why is this blockade not getting more strongly condemned by the US and the UK, even if Saudi Arabia is allowed leeway to pursue the rest of the conflict as it sees fit?

I can think of no recent counterinsurgency war in which a policy of subduing a country via large scale blockade, including food, was pursued. Imagine the outcry if the US had tried doing so in Afghanistan or Iraq. I am pretty sure the USSR did not do so in Afghanistan either. Nor France in Algeria or the US in Vietnam.

The only conscious starvation policies I can think of are WW1 Allies blockading Germany and the WW2 German UBoat campaign against the UK.

If the UN's and the NGOs' warnings are justified, and millions of civilians' lives are at risk, it seems in our best interest to disassociate ourselves from Saudi actions. Letting alone the direct human misery caused, that level of suffering will inevitably lead to further radicalization, just as the Chechnya wars have spawned numerous extremists.

In the short term, Saudi Arabia has little choice but to keep purchasing weapons from its usual suppliers and to keep pumping out oil, so their leverage in pushing back to have their way wrt the blockade seems limited.


2 Answers 2


According to Colonel Larry Wilkerson (Real News video interview this year, I don't remember the date or have a link, sorry, I'll edit in a link of I can find it), In America's case, Obama initiated the support for Saudi Arabia as a kind of apology for the Iran deal. Trump in a recent news conference when asked about US Saudi support in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, Trump outright stated it's because US profits from Saudi weapons contracts, and if they don't sell weapons to the Saudis, someone else will, Russia or China, better that it's America https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hYPyaJMA3eA. As for ongoing diplomatic and logistical support, I can't explain it, I could hazard a pretty good guess, probably the same reason you would guess.

  • That still doesn't explain the UK's complicity and Europe's general indifference. But I suppose that's as good an answer as we're going to get. I just find that, if Yemen is really heading for a full scale famine, then it would make sense to pressure the Saudis into allowing food in. Even if, they are allowed to proceed with their (rather badly done) war. Though I did read articles stating that the Houthis themselves are a lot to blame in the food issues. It's just a question of magnitude - thousands or 10000s of deaths are very different from million-scale. Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 8:35
  • The UK also sells weapons to the Saudis. The Labour party however, has recently stated that if they gain power, they will end weapon sales to the Saudis. The petro dollar, and Saudi Arabia's role in it's value and global trade using US controlled financial systems, weapons contractor sales, having an ally in a region with important natural resources and good old fashioned corruption are the main reasons for complicity regrading Saudi Arabia, then there's small nations who rely on US investment and job creation who tow the line with whatever the official US policy happens to me.
    – Icarian
    Commented Oct 26, 2018 at 12:48

There are two factors at play here: a) Political cost,i.e. political pressure to act and b) the actual circumstances.

a) Is relatively small - simply put, most people domestically don't care enough to make a fuss. This is a mixture of factors including the distance, the cultural ties, relativly little historical involvement etc.

b) is even more complex. To understand what is going on you can't just say there is a blockade by Saudi Arabia; you also need to point out who they are fighting against, namely, the Houthis. When you take into account that "The group's flag reads as following: "God Is Great, Death to America, Death to Israel, Curse on the Jews, Victory to Islam"." you can start to see why there would be support for Saudi's campaign, if not their means of conducting it.

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