It seems that the tragic incident in Niger is evolving into storylines relating to why few or no members of Congress were aware of our deployment in Niger, and whether there were intelligence and operational deficiencies that, in turn, left our men exposed before the ambush and insufficiently supported after it occurred. Although I may be the last American alive to absorb this, the Niger incident has brought home to me the ramifications of the apparent decision of the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations that we have (and are probably going to indefinitely have) our troops at risk in countries across the globe to conduct a worldwide struggle against terrorism.
President Bush declared in September, 2001:
“Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.”
My focus after 9/11 was on al Qaeda; perhaps only I didn’t grasp the full implications of his declaration: that he was committing us to a struggle that would indeed cover the globe, last for decades and – whether or not the President realized it at the time — could never be entirely won. Over the years, the scope of the mission has perhaps been blurred at times by finite territorial references – “the war in Afghanistan,” “the war in Iraq,” “the war in Syria,” “retaking ISIS’ declared Caliphate,” etc., etc. What makes me think that I’m probably the one that is slow on the uptake is the lack of reaction to Sen. Graham’s straightforward comment this weekend relating to the Niger incident:
“This is an endless war without boundaries – no limitations on time and geography.”
If the effort is indeed to be “endless” and worldwide — and having small deployments of our people in places like Niger seems to indicate that it is – on the off chance that I am not the only one of our people that failed to grasp the full import of President Bush’s words and intentions, I would suggest that President Trump address the nation, and clearly articulate that this is a mission of indefinite containment – essentially a police action — against shifting adversaries, and spell out what our people can reasonably expect regarding the lives, resources, and years that will be spent on the effort (to follow the lives, resources, and years that we have already devoted to it). This is not to say whether this is, or is not, an appropriate mission; however, we should be sure that our citizens understand the breadth and duration of the commitment, and the need for it; recognize that this struggle will draw resources that we might prefer to invest elsewhere while lacking the likelihood of finality; and accept it.