The problem when a country decides to play world police is what happens when it gets itself in so many conflicts people start glossing them over. The New York Times has a story today on the U.S. military’s role in the seemingly endless civil war in Somalia.
About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes.
The Navy’s classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations.
Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities, including one in Puntland, a state in northern Somalia, before the detainees are transferred to more permanent Somali-run prisons, American military officials said.
For those wondering about this war, see Black Hawk Down, and then wonder why in the blue cow the military is still involved in this war which has nothing to do with America’s security. The U.S. involvement appears to date back to a 1992 UN resolution asking for “peacekeepers” to make sure humanitarian aid was delivered to the region. The problem with the term “peacekeeper,” is it can be misconstrued to mean “special forces to take down leaders,” hence Black Hawk Down.
One thing NYT points out is how U.S. involvement in Somalia has had mixed results, with one strike taking out 150 al-Shabaab fighters, while another took out Somali troops the U.S. is allied with. Bad intel was blamed on the latter, which is going to happen. It still caused some strain between the U.S. and its allies, which is completely understandable. But NYT also raised the fact the U.S. may have to expand its role in Somalia.
“It is clear that U.S. on-the-ground support to Somali security forces and African Union peacekeepers has been stepped up this year,” said Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert at Davidson College. “That increases the likelihood that U.S. advisers will periodically be in positions where Al Shabab is about to launch an attack.”
Peter Cook, the Department of Defense spokesman, wrote in an email, “The DoD has a strong partnership with the Somali National Army and AMISOM forces from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and Burundi operating in Somalia. They have made steady progress pressuring Al Shabab.”
Congress appears to be completely willing to go along with what the Obama Administration is doing, even though there’s never been an Authorization Use of Military Force vote on the issue. A 1992 editorial in The New York Times actually excoriated Congress for not holding a vote, with then-Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell saying he didn’t believe it would lead to a shooting war involving Americans. NYT wrote the ominous words, “But it could,” which is obviously what has happened. There’s not going to be a vote in Congress as long as they keep being informed of what’s going on. Via NYT from today:
The escalation of the war can be seen in the bureaucratic language of the semiannual notifications that Mr. Obama sends to Congress about American conflicts overseas.
The Somalia passage in the June 2015 notification is terse, saying American troops “have worked to counter the terrorist threat posed by al-Qa’ida and associated elements of al-Shabaab.”
In June, however, the president told Congress that the United States had become engaged in a more expansive mission.
Besides hunting members of Al Qaeda and the Shabab, the notification said, American troops are in Somalia “to provide advice and assistance to regional counterterrorism forces, including the Somali National Army and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces.”
American airstrikes, it said, were carried out in defense of the African troops and in one instance because Shabab fighters “posed an imminent threat to U.S. and AMISOM forces.”
This is unconstitutional. Congress is the only branch of government which can declare war, and both branches of government are ignoring the War Powers Act. It’s not surprising to see the Administration do this because of something Talking Points Memo reported in 2011 over military intervention into Libya.
The White House would forge ahead with military action in Libya even if Congress passed a resolution constraining the mission, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said during a classified briefing to House members Wednesday afternoon.
Clinton was responding to a question from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) about the administration’s response to any effort by Congress to exercise its war powers, according to a senior Republican lawmaker who attended the briefing.
The answer surprised many in the room because Clinton plainly admitted the administration would ignore any and all attempts by Congress to shackle President Obama’s power as commander in chief to make military and wartime decisions. In doing so, he would follow a long line of Presidents who have ignored the act since its passage, deeming it an unconstitutional encroachment on executive power.
That’s the same Hillary Clinton who is currently the Democratic nominee for president. Also, don’t forget Republican nominee Donald Trump was also for Libya before he was against it. What we can probably expect from both is more of these ridiculous, unconstitutional wars and for Congress to sit idly by and twiddle thumbs.
The solution is obviously a complicated one because it’s easy to sit here and say, “DON’T SEND TROOPS TO WAR!” instead of actually prompting Congress to do something. It means people need to be willing to ask their senators or congressmen why the U.S. is involved, and press them to actually do a vote on whether military actions should happen. It also means people need to be willing to listen to those who aren’t interested in having the U.S. further its role as “Team America: World Police.” Jazz raised similar questions on why a U.S. ship was close enough to Yemen for the Houthi rebels fire a missile at it. At some point, Congress and the White House is going to have to answer why they seem willing to keep putting American lives at risk for “peacekeeping.”