On Tuesday, Houthi rebels in Yemen fired six ballistic missiles at commercial ships, one of which was shot down by a U.S. naval cruiser. It thus seems that the intensification of British and American attacks on the Iran-backed group’s military infrastructure has neither crippled nor deterred it. Noam Raydan and Grant Rumley explain how Washington’s timidity brought this situation about:
If the United States had responded to the Houthis’ attacks in November by immediately going after weapons stockpiles, missile launchers, and radar stations, it would have demonstrated U.S. resolve while seriously degrading the Houthis’ ability to continue their assault. Admittedly, Washington would have given the group the fight it wanted: the Houthis derive legitimacy from standing up to the United States and, by extension, Israel. But a quicker, more decisive strike against the Houthis’ military infrastructure would have had the practical effect of making it difficult for the group to conduct a prolonged campaign, regardless of its ambitions.
If the United States had struck earlier, the current U.S.-Houthi conflict might have looked more like an episode between the two states from seven years earlier.
In that instance, a swift and robust American response reestablished deterrence.