Fewer and fewer military veterans serve in the U.S. Congress, and to my imperfect knowledge, no key U.S. congressman has relevant experience in special operations. Senators such as John McCain, Lindsay Graham and Jack Reed have never shied away from asking incisive, hard questions about the military in which they once served. But few if any congressmen know enough about the organization and activities of special operations forces to ask similarly focused questions.
This trend is especially worrying considering the ease with which the executive branch of the U.S. government has found it to utilize special operations forces. President Barack Obama has deployed special operations forces to Central Africa, Yemen and Somalia without any congressional authorization for these forces to engage in combat. On the one hand, Americans are not likely to question whether or not special operations forces on short missions to rescue hostages or to seize a terrorist had the proper congressional authorization. No one particularly cares if Navy SEAL snipers kill a group of pirates — because aside from the SEALs’ obvious popularity, these kinds of missions are one-off events.
On the other hand, few Americans, who on the whole are war-weary, realize that the U.S. military is waging a more comprehensive and enduring campaign in Yemen. For all intents and purposes, the United States is waging a war against the enemies of the state of Yemen — for the most part working with and through local Yemeni forces, but also conducting direct kinetic strikes with drones or other weaponry. Good luck, though, trying to find the formal declaration of war that preceded that campaign.