Will the Yemen Raid Become Trump's Benghazi?

U.S. Navy SEALS. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy

And what lessons can we learn from this?

Speaking more generally, the United States has small teams of Special Forces in at least thirty countries in Africa and the Middle East. There is a naïve assumption that those teams can engage in “capacity building” and help the locals build up their military forces to a level that allows them to fend for themselves. A Pentagon official explained to me that one of the most important missions of these teams is to curb corruption. This is important because a good part of the monies allotted to the various local military forces ends up in the pockets of the generals and lower-ranking officers—to the point that troops are often sent to fight with little ammunition and limited amounts of food. It is hard to imagine how a Navy SEAL team, well trained in the art of killing, would be able to get the locals to curb corruption. Fifteen years of such efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, which has required a large-scale U.S. involvement, shows how futile such drives can be. The raid in Yemen should serve as opportunity to ask the greater question: should the United States demonstrate weakness by being involved in the unsuccessful buildup of various nations, withdraw its forces from those nations or engage on the level success requires?

Also, one must ask where the Yemen raid fits into a general strategy of dealing with Iran, which is helping to destabilize Yemen. Should the United States tackle the rising power via various proxies in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen—or confront the beast head on?

Amitai Etzioni is a University Professor and Professor of International Relations at The George Washington University. His latest book, Foreign Policy: Thinking Outside the Box, was recently published by Routledge.

Image: U.S. Navy SEALS. Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Navy