As the U.S. military ramps up strikes on Houthi forces in Yemen and militant attacks on troops in Iraq and Syria balloon, Pentagon officials have offered a solid and unflinching answer to a basic question: Are we at war with Iranian-backed rebels?
Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh offered a fairly simple “no” when asked the question by reporters Thursday. “We don't seek war. … We are not at war with the Houthis,” she added. The Pentagon press corps, seemingly perplexed, noted the increasing number of strikes against the rebel group and asked, “If this isn't war, what is war?”
Despite the unequivocal assurances, the question of war comes amid growing signs that American forces in the region are certainly in combat and approaching a war-like state, drawing more and more skepticism from the press and critics alike.
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But experts note that, while such assurances seem at odds with the military realities, they offer political expediency — though at a cost to the American people and political discourse in the country.
“I don't know that there's any purpose served by being too cute about the way you talk about it,” Brad Martin, a former Navy captain turned senior researcher at Rand Corp., told Military.com on Friday. “It's definitely combat, and it is definitely something that could become a much larger combat….