According to a report from Paul McLeary in DefenseNews.com, without much fanfare – or explanation to the American people — President Obama has again committed US forces by using his War Powers Resolution authority.
In the letter to the Speaker of the House and the President Pro tempore of the Senate on December 19, President Obama said that the soldiers, deployed on December 18, are equipped for combat, but that this force was deployed for the purpose of protecting U.S. citizens and property. This force will remain in South Sudan until the security situation becomes such that it is no longer needed.
The soldiers deployed are part of the US Army¹s East Africa Response Force to the capital of Juba to help evacuate American citizens and ensure the safety of embassy personnel there. The forty-five combat-ready soldiers are part of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division based in Ft Riley, Kansas, but who are on a year-long deployment in the Army’s Regionally Aligned Forces program, which marries brigade combat teams with combatant commands around the world to thicken their ranks.
Once again, President Obama fails to realize the enemy has a vote, and any deployment into a hostile zone is not simply an “overseas contingency operation,” but rather a combat operation.
Case in point: DefenseNews.com reports “US aircraft flown into South Sudan to help with those evacuation efforts on Saturday came under fire, wounding four US servicemen, officials said, as fighting in the country escalated.”
This is sadly reminiscent of the Obama administration’s ill-advised venture into Libya which resulted in the destabilization of that region, empowering Islamists, and later resulting in the deaths of an American Ambassador and three others, including two former US Navy SEALS.
Tensions are rising throughout the region as neighboring countries Kenya and Uganda attempt to evacuate foreign nationals as well. South Sudan faces a power struggle between President Salva Kiir and a fast-growing rebel force over control of the oil-rich nation. If the rebel forces succeed in controlling the oil fields, they could effectively hold the government to ransom.
After 20 years of civil war that left nearly two million dead, South Sudan is now struggling with ethnic rivalries. Although this latest unrest appeared to start as a result of a political disagreement, the violence is coalescing along ethnic lines, pitting Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, against his rival Riek Machar, a Nuer.
Defense News reports that:
President Obama has warned that hopes for South Sudan are now “at risk,” and Secretary of State Kerry said Friday he was sending Donald Booth, his special envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, to the region to encourage talks between the warring factions.
My assessment is that this is another episode of the Obama administration believing it can use the US military as a “do good” force, part and parcel of the doctrinaire of Susan Rice and Samantha Power.
By entering this internal tribal conflagration, the US must declare support for one side, and given that they fired upon our aircraft, it seems the rebel forces have answered that question. Casting the US Military in some nebulous peacekeeping role will lead to mission creep and memories of Somalia under the Clinton administration — that certainly did not end well.
At a time when we are decimating our US military, and eroding the trust and confidence the military has with the Obama administration and Congress, this venture is unwarranted, unless there are clear objectives for victory.
I am reminded of a very prescient book written by Samuel Huntington in 1993, titled The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. Huntington warned that after the bipolar world of US-USSR hegemonic dominance, the world would revert to age-old fault lines of separation based on religious, racial, and ethnic divisions – and here we are.
This is the reality of the 21st century battlefield, and America finds itself ill prepared to effectively conduct the full spectrum of operations along the front lines. We are in desperate need of a serious strategic vision that links our foreign policy with our national security. The Obama track record in this area is not good. You cannot end a conflict by simply “quitting” as we have done in Iraq and will soon do in Afghanistan. The enemy doesn’t give up the battle because you don’t feel like fighting. Yes, I am very concerned about the direction this endeavor will take.