Congress attention needed so troops are not at risk

(Portland) Commercial Review

Which is more unsettling: That the United States has something like 800 to 1,000 troops in Niger? Or that most of the members of the U.S. Congress had no idea they were there?

Our money is on the second one.

Members of the House and Senate from both parties admitted  — in the wake of the loss of four U.S. troops in Niger — that they were pretty much clueless about the mission, the country, the objectives and the risks.

Given the fact that we pay these people, that’s embarrassing.

Where is Niger? It’s in west-central Africa, just east of Mali.

Why are we there? For the same reason that we seem to have troops sprinkled all over the African continent: ISIS and its offshoots.

But while those bits of information might allow you to satisfy a soundbite when a reporter sticks a microphone in your face, they don’t add up to a satisfactory explanation of what U.S. policy actually is.

And the ignorance of our representatives in Congress merely underscores the fact that our policy in the region hasn’t been debated, discussed, or considered. It’s simply a product of our momentum in the aftermath of 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, and all the rest.

Public Broadcasting aired an excellent — occasionally devastating — multi-part documentary about the Vietnam War. It was a cautionary tale that could not have come at a more appropriate time.

When policy is built upon drift, inattention, and flawed suppositions, the consequences can be dire.

Does that mean we should not have troops targeting Islamic extremists in place like Niger? Not necessarily.

But it’s a reminder of the consequences when our elected representatives don’t do their homework, don’t ask the questions they need to be asking, and don’t have the courage to question authority now and then

This was distributed by Hoosier State Press Association.