The editors of the Pittsburg Post-Gazette wonder why American soldiers are fighting and dying in Niger:
The first question is, what are hundreds of U.S. troops doing in Niger? It is a French-speaking nation for which France has traditionally played the important “godfather” role, including with military forces. Niger is a poor nation of 21 million, with few notable resources apart from the fact of its central location, landlocked, and bordering on Algeria, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Nigeria and southern Libya, a largely desert area of little or no strategic importance to the United States.
The claim in the past has been that some of the various shadowy tribal militia forces operating in the region have al-Qaida or Islamic State links but the intelligence supporting that argument for U.S. forces to be in Niger is shaky at best. They can better be described as armed bandit gangs.
The second major question is why Americans learn of U.S. military involvement in Niger, in combat in fact, only when American soldiers die? No one seems to recall an American president or Congress declaring war in Niger. What we are looking at instead is one piece of an expansion of U.S. military activity in Africa to justify the existence of the U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM.
Good questions. I have a different question. Under what authority are they there? If it’s under the Authorization for Use of Military Force of 2001, that’s quite a stretch. If it’s under the president’s authority as commander-in-chief of the military, that’s an even greater stretch. That authority isn’t carte blanche. The U. S. armed forces are not the president’s personal military. If it just grew like Topsy, that’s insubordination.
There are three conditions for a just war (just ends, just means, just authority). Protecting Nigeriens would be just; extending U. S. influence in the region wouldn’t; providing a pretext to expand the role of AFRICOM would be even less so. Unless Congress has declared war against someone in Niger, I see no way that U. S. forces are fighting there under a just authority.
These interventions have a way of taking on lives of their own. The war in Vietnam began as picking up the French end. In 1959 was had nearly 1,000 advisors there, ostensibly training the South Vietnamese military. By 1961 the U. S. military was already taking casualties. The rest, as they say, is history. For another example, consider Afghanistan.
When there is no mission, it’s all creep.