Houthi Blockade of Red Sea Exposes Ongoing American Decline
About a week ago, we got an unexpected view into the alarming levels of dysfunction which has plagued the executive branch of American government. It is, of course, no secret that all branches of that system are beset with varying degrees of dysfunction. However what made this particular episode so noteworthy was the impressive level of dysfunction that it accidentally uncovered. In case you are still wondering what I am talking about, here is a short version of the story. It begins with the defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, somehow ending up in the ICU of Walter Reed medical center to treat complications arising from a somewhat routine surgical procedure he allegedly had around Christmas. Based on what we know thus far, a routine prostatectomy caused a serious UTI infection about a week later- and this was serious enough to require over a week in the ICU. Now, this situation (though unfortunate) is not rare, however what followed this hospitalization is anything but routine.
For starters, Lloyd Austin (or anyone around him) did not communicate the fact that he was hospitalized to other people in the administration. We still do not know why this most basic step, for someone occupying so important a position, was not taken. It is however clear that the decision to not communicate his medical situation to the rest of executive branch was deliberate rather than a simple oversight. This becomes more unusual as his immediate deputy, Kathleen Hicks, knew about his situation and was either told to keep quiet or made that decision. In any case, it took over a week for Joe Biden, who is supposed to be the president, to know that his defense secretary was in the ICU. But it get better.. this occurred at the same time as USA was organizing ineffectual missile strikes against the Houthis in Yemen. But don’t worry.. because we are told that the Defense Secretary was working from the ICU.
But wait.. it gets even better, if you can believe it. Once all of this bumbling came to public view, the white house was not able to provide a coherent explanation (even untrue) about how such a major miscommunication occurred. We did not even get a timeline of when he was expected to return back to work. As it turns out, that allegedly occurred yesterday. To summarize, one of the most senior and important member of the Biden administration was functionally missing from his post for about a week and nobody seemed to care, even though this occurred during a time when his ability to perform the job was important. And this brings up an important but usually ignored question- who is running this clown show? As is common knowledge now, Joe Biden does not appear to be in charge of the public office to which he was allegedly elected. In fact, it is doubtful he ever had the mental faculties to occupy that office.
Some might see this as an isolated incident, not that different from how the Wilson administration was run in its last year after the president suffered from a massive stroke in 1919. Perhaps.. but there are many other signs that USA, and the West in general, is much weaker and far less capable than it is still desperately trying to project in the international stage. Let us start with the current situation in Yemen. As some might remember, Saudi Arabia and UARE (with considerable Israeli and American assistance) tried for almost a decade to wage war against Yemen so that they could install their puppet government in that country. After a brutal war, they failed and had to give up. Well.. a few weeks ago, The Houthis decided to attack cargo shops bound for Israel or owned by Israelis as they entered the Red Sea. Even ten years, many would have found the idea, of an ostensibly non-state militia successfully blocking one of the major global maritime chokepoints, laughable.
As it turns out, it is the Houthis who are laughing now as they were able to hit and harass enough Israel bound and western owned ships to make the majority of large cargo ships take the much longer route to Europe by following the coastline of Africa. The few container ships still using the Suez Canal via Read Sea now openly advertise that they not bound for Israel or not owned by western companies. This has occurred despite all guarantees made by USA and UK to protect cargo shops as they transit that chokepoint near mouth of Red Sea. The Houthis (or their allies) have also been able to attack Israeli owned cargo ships as far away as 200-300 km from the coast of India. Also, the recent attempts by USA and UK to bomb a few token targets in Yemen had no effect on the Houthis resolve or ability to attack ships bound for Israel or owned by somebody in that country. In fact, since those ill-advised attacks by USA, the Houthis have expanded their targets to include ships owned by American and British entities.
To make matters, if that is even possible- the current American method of using million dollar missiles to attempt intercepting drones and missiles costing a very tiny faction of that amount is not sustainable, especially since those western air defense missiles are in short supply and have to loaded when the ship is docked (not at sea). To put it another way, the dumb current plan by USA and other countries in the West to stop Houthi drone and missile attacks on cargo ships is not sustainable for multiple reasons- and the cargo shipping companies recognize this fact. And there are other problems with such an approach starting with the availability of American cruise missiles to bomb Houthis. To make a long story short, a combination of insane cost increases by manufacturers and deindustrialization has had a strong negative effect on the stockpiles of such weapons in the West. It is estimated that the total American stockpiles (4-7k) of their most common cruise missiles is about the same number as Russia used in Ukraine during past two years and their ability to produce new ones is about a few dozen per year, even if they run existing facilities at full capacity.
The current capacity of USA and other western countries to produce usable weapons is pretty low. Just a few months ago, USA was begging South Korea and Pakistan to supply them with 155 mm artillery shells for use in the Ukraine war, because their own stockpiles were running low and they did not have the capacity to make enough of them. UK has been suffering all sorts of issues with maintaining and staffing their ships and submarines, let alone build newer ones for almost two decades now- and their armed forces are the smallest they have been since end of WW2. Germany is an ever worse position. Nowadays USA is begging Japan and South Korea for spare Patriot SAM missiles. To summarize, the successful Houthi blockade of Red Sea is one more demonstration of how far the real-life military capabilities of USA and other western countries have fallen and how deeply they are in denial about this new reality.
What do you think? Comments?