“We are talking about billions of dollars of continued sales, boosting the financial health and global profile of many important American private defense industries,” Professor Matthew Crosston of the American Military University said in an interview with the Balkans Post.
Here’s the full transcript of the interview:
Balkans Post: On September 14, drone attacks claimed by Yemen’s houthi movement forces struck two key oil installations inside Saudi Arabia. What’s your take on this incident?
Matthew Crosston: Several years ago, here in the United States, I constantly argued for something I called ‘the drone tipping point,’ which I declared would be coming and was inevitable but was roundly dismissed, or at least, ignored by important agencies in Washington DC. Basically, the drone tipping point is a testimony to the fact that for YEARS the United States has stated it will maintain its dominance globally over drone technology, especially weaponized drone technology, while ALSO being the biggest seller and pusher of drone technology transfers all over the world. Since by its very nature drone technology is ‘dual-use’ (ie, while manufactured for civilian use, it is easily adapted to be weaponizable), the United States was creating a global environment in which eventually some countries/organizations would in fact obtain a weaponized drone and would likely use it against either an American target or an American ally. Four years ago, no one in Washington DC would listen to me on this warning. The events in Saudi Arabia proved I was correct. From here, it will only get more complicated and more dangerous on the global stage. The only question is whether the U.S. will pay attention.
Balkans Post: Do you think Riyadh has acknowledged its failure in Yemen?
Matthew Crosston: I do not believe Saudi Arabia will acknowledge a failure in Yemen. Since I do not think Saudi Arabia will even admit to any culpability in Yemen, why would it admit to any kind of ‘failure’? As long as the United States continues to semi-protect the Saudis from too much international criticism, the conflict will almost inevitably continue.
Balkans Post: The U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, has estimated that Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen has claimed more than 91,000 lives over the past four and a half years. What's your take?
Matthew Crosston: For the benefit of your readers, who likely do not want a long, diplomatic, strategic, and careful response, I will say it simply and succinctly: the ACLED claim is accurate and the only reason this conflict continues is because Saudi Arabia, aligned with the United States, have succeeded in making the West believe Iran’s so-called involvement in the conflict ‘forgives’ whatever maneuvers Saudi Arabia does, regardless of how violent or overwhelming.
Balkans Post: According to a report by The American Conservative magazine, senior U.S. officials have known ever since Saudi Arabia began a war of aggression against Yemen that Riyadh would fail in the military campaign. If accurate, why would the U.S. let one of its closest Middle East allies fail so miserably?
Matthew Crosston: If I am being truly and viciously cynical, the U.S. allows the war to proceed because most of the weaponry being used by the Saudis in Yemen are sold to them by the Americans. We are talking about billions of dollars of continued sales, boosting the financial health and global profile of many important American private defense industries. If Saudi Arabia launched this exact same war against, for example, Egypt or the UAE or Pakistan, I believe America would still sell weapons to the Saudis, but would also simultaneously begin diplomatic measures to keep the conflict short and constrained. Since Yemen is not nearly the global presence or carry the international importance of these other countries, the conflict can continue without much pressure or denunciation. It is a horrible thing to surmise, but that does not mean it is any less true.
The global community has shown that it is ok with the ‘cheapening’ of Yemeni life, that Yemen does not matter. Without that attitudinal change, Yemenis will continue to die.
Dr. Matthew Crosston is Director over all Intelligence programs at the American Military University.