In recent days, the Ansar Allah movement in Yemen, commonly referred to as the Houthis, has managed a historical feat. The Houthis have essentially shut down commercial traffic through the Red Sea, effectively blockading the Suez canal, one of the most important waterways for the global economy. At first, most shipping firms tried to ignore the attacks, but this only led to Houthi escalation. In the last week, the Houthis became the first people in the world to employ anti-ship ballistic missiles in combat; soon a wide array of companies announced that they were ceasing Red Sea transport.
In response, the United States has announced “Operation Prosperity Guardian.” The details are few and far between, but it seems that the Pentagon is now planning to bomb Yemen until the Houthis stop their attacks on shipping. Yet without a clear plan for how it will prevail, Washington is poised to wade into yet another quagmire.
For starters, the very need for Prosperity Guardian means that US Mideast policy since Oct. 7 has been a failure. In the wake of Hamas’ attack on Israel, the United States dispatched two aircraft carriers and several squadrons of warplanes to the region. The move was meant to signal that no third parties would be permitted to interfere with the Jewish state’s war on Hamas—a war that has had massive civilian casualties, infuriating much of the world.
This was a high-stakes gamble on the part of the United States, but nobody seemed to have considered just how much American power—and particularly American deterrence—had atrophied in the previous decade. Sure enough, and notwithstanding the carrier groups, Hezbollah began lobbing rockets at Israel from the north, the Yemenis launched ballistic missiles at the Israeli port of Eilat, and Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces) launched a campaign against US bases with the stated intent of expelling all Americans from the country.