U.S. President Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks to reporters before boarding Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 2024.

(Photo: Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden Admits Bombing Yemen Isn't Working, But Says US Will Continue Anyway

"When in doubt—bomb, has become the policy of the Biden administration in Yemen," said one peace group. "Time for Congress to step in."

After U.S. forces bombed Yemen without congressional authorization for the fourth time in a week, President Joe Biden admitted Thursday that the airstrikes aren't stopping Houthi attacks in the Red Sea—but said the bombing would continue regardless.

"Well, when you say 'working'—are they stopping the Houthis? No," Biden said in response to a reporter's question. "Are they gonna continue? Yes."


The U.S. president's remarks came as he faced heightening criticism from members of Congress and outside advocates over the ongoing strikes on Yemen, all launched amid fears of an all-out regional war in the Middle East.

The flurry of U.S. strikes against Yemen's Houthis does not seem to have diminished the group's capacity to attack commercial vessels in the Red Sea, a key global trade route. The Houthis say they are working to prevent genocide in the Gaza Strip by targeting Israel-bound ships.

As Responsible Statecraft's Kelley Beaucar Vlahos noted Thursday, the Houthis struck "a U.S.-owned commercial vessel in the Red Sea with a one-way attack drone" just hours before the Biden administration's fourth round of bombing, which the U.S. Central Command said was aimed at "14 Iran-backed Houthi missiles that were loaded to be fired in Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen."

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have rebuked the Biden administration for launching airstrikes in Yemen without approval from Congress, which they argue is required under Article I of the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution of 1973. U.S. President Joe Biden didn't formally notify Congress of the initial strikes on Yemen last week until a day after the munitions were dropped, killing at least five people.

"I directed this military action consistent with my responsibility to protect United States citizens both at home and abroad and in furtherance of United States national security and foreign policy interests, pursuant to my constitutional authority as commander in chief and chief executive and to conduct United States foreign relations," Biden wrote in a letter to congressional leaders last Friday.

But lawmakers and anti-war campaigners say the Biden administration's self-defense rationale for striking Yemen without congressional backing doesn't stand up to scrutiny.

"The excuse that the president can ignore Congress because it's an 'emergency' under the War Powers Resolution has worn thin," Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, wrote late Wednesday. "The U.S. is not under attack. This isn't a short-term crisis. Biden must go to Congress."

Even supporters of Biden's military actions in Yemen, such as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), have said the president is required by law to obtain lawmakers' approval.

"I expect to be briefed by the White House in the coming days on the scope of these strikes and the plan ahead," said Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's Subcommittee on Near East, South Asia, Central Asia, and Counterterrorism. "The administration is legally required to seek congressional authorization for sustained hostilities against Houthi forces under the War Powers Resolution."

U.S. forces have been engaged in hostilities with the Houthis in the Red Sea since October, shooting down the group's missiles and drones.

Trita Parsi, executive vice president of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, argued in an op-ed for TIME magazine earlier this week that continued strikes in Yemen will only lead to "escalating tensions that strengthen the de facto Houthi blockade and elevate the potential for the conflict to expand into a full-fledged regional war."

Noting that confirmed Houthi attacks fell during November's week-long pause in Gaza, Parsi argued that the best way to stop the attacks in the Red Sea and the targeting of U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria is to secure a cease-fire in the Palestinian enclave.

"A cease-fire is far more likely to curb Houthi and Iraqi militia attacks; reduce tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese border, where regular exchanges of fire have been taking place; secure the release of Israeli hostages held by Hamas; and, most important of all, stop further civilian casualties in Gaza," Parsi wrote. "If, in the worst-case scenario, Biden's escalation against the Houthis sparks a regional war, there should be little doubt that this is another war of choice—and one without congressional authorization. Not because Biden desired it, but because he refused to pursue the most obvious and peaceful path to prevent it."

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