EDITOR’S NOTE: Each week we cross-post an excerpt from Katrina vanden Heuvel’s column at the WashingtonPost.com. Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.
That four US Army soldiers lost their lives in an ambush in Niger should spark a reckoning. While US news outlets flood us with reports on President Trump’s alleged insults to a widow who lost her husband and the congresswoman who defended her, and probe the tactical details of the ambush, the real question is: What are US soldiers doing in combat in Niger and elsewhere across Africa? Under what authority do they operate? Is national security served by risking soldiers’ lives in what appears to be an expanding and enduring shadow war in Africa?
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-SC), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, claimed that he had no idea there were 1,000 US soldiers in Niger, but he has no qualms about the mission. But after briefings by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, he boasted that “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less. You’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.”
The senator shamelessly flaunts Congress’s utter dereliction of its fundamental constitutional responsibility to declare war. The founders gave Congress that power because they were worried about the executive’s penchant for wars that ended up impoverishing the people. As James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “The constitution supposes, what the History of all Governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, & most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.”
Read the full text of Katrina’s column here.