President Trump gave an impromptu press conference today, the subject of Niger came up.
We have about 6-700 servicemembers in Niger right now doing a wide range of things. They’ve been there for some years but they came to the attention of the collective consciousness a couple of weekends ago when four soldier were killed in a skirmish with ISIS/al-Qaeda inspired Islamists from Mali. The details on what happened aren’t all that clear but it looks like a routine reconnaissance patrol and civil affairs mission was changed into a mission to kill or capture a recruiter in the area.
President Trump on Wednesday said he did not personally authorize the mission in Niger in which four U.S. soldiers were killed, saying “my generals and my military” have decision-making authority.
Asked if he authorized the mission, Trump responded, “No, I didn’t, not specifically.”
“I have generals that are great generals,” he continued. “These are great fighters; these are warriors. I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win. And we’re going to win.”
Trump made the comments to reporters on the White House south lawn as he left for Texas.
“My generals and my military, they have decision-making ability,” he added later. “As far as the incident that we’re talking about, I’ve been seeing it just like you’ve been seeing it. I’ve been getting reports. They have to meet the enemy and they meet them tough and that’s what happens.”
This is all true and it is the way things work. It would be grotesque if the president of the United States was asked to give his permission to a patrol involving twelve US and 30 Nigerien troops. Patrols like this take place across Africa, the Middle East and Pacific Rim daily. These kinds of operations probably don’t even come to the attention of generals, or at least they shouldn’t–unless something bad happens. And yes, it is the job of the guys on the sharp end of the spear to go out, find the bad guys, and fight them. Sometimes unfortunate things happen.
However, the keyboard warriors on Twitter out out in full force:
Trump says he did not authorize the mission in Niger that resulted in loss of 4 soldiers. generals did
— John Harwood (@JohnJHarwood) October 25, 2017
Re-upping this tweet today after Trump blames the generals for the Niger ambush. https://t.co/KrjCfRW0U3
— Elise Jordan (@Elise_Jordan) October 25, 2017
This last one is a hoot because no one ever went wrong with troops by blaming a senior officer and leads me to believe his Marine combat veteran friend is a huge white rabbit named Harvey.
They go on and on in that vein. I’m sure if you want to take that exchange and interpret it as “Trump blames the generals” you can. It would be dishonest in the extreme but, sure, you could do it. The flip side to that interpretation is that the field commanders are not allowed to give orders to their troops unless they get an okay from the White House. Is that an acceptable response? I think any fair reading of this has to acknowledge that by taking ownership of the overall mission and expressing support for the combat commanders that Trump knows that ultimately he owns this. But hell, what do I know, I just have experience and I don’t have a blue checkmark on my Twitter account.
This is simply more stupid outrage mongering designed to divert attention from some real news, like Uranium One and the FBI using Democrat oppo research to get t FISA warrant. It shows that the people who are making these attacks aren’t serious about anything bigger than simply trying to hurt Trump.