Fighting ebola with ak's
sending our troops to fight ebola
Group members Joshua Osburn and Bennett Morella December 11, 2014
Did obama make a mistake?
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama was right to dispatch U.S. military units to help combat an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. But he did it for the wrong reasons.
Obama called it a “national security” mission — a clear misuse of the term. Americans should be wary of Washington’s growing tendency to make every project a priority simply by adding the word “security” to the issue.
National security efforts must be controlled by the government, at the highest levels. So when our government says it wants to focus on climate security, energy security, food security — what it is really saying is that the government plans to step in and take over.
For most of life’s challenges and hazards — even those where we might want the government to take some action — we certainly don’t want Washington to take over.
An Appropriate Response
True “national security” issues arise due to actions by countries or extremist groups like al-Qaida that threaten the violent destruction of interests to the United States. Other types of challenges — be they bad bugs or bad weather — are just problems to be solved.
The challenge of keeping Ebola from becoming a global problem is not mainly a security problem. Helping West Africa deal with Ebola is a humanitarian mission.
It is, of course, entirely appropriate for the U.S. to provide humanitarian assistance when we have the means to do so and it does not conflict with America’s interest.
America’s humanitarian response to the 2004 Tsunami in the Asia-Pacific dwarfed the assistance provided by most countries.
Further, the U.S. military undertakes these kinds of missions quite frequently, both at home and abroad. Be it sandbagging during storms or delivering supplies and rescue services after disaster strikes, our military is skilled at assisting in non-military emergencies. It is not the principal job for our armed forces, but these are appropriate auxiliary missions — tasks to be done when U.S. troops are needed and available.
The right measure of these missions is whether or not they are suitable, possible and acceptable.
Without question, the West African crisis is a suitable use of U.S. forces. The Pentagon can quickly deploy expertise, support and infrastructure that will help local organizations stop the spread of the disease.
Defeat Ebola At Its Source
There’s self-interest here as well. The best way to keep more Ebola cases from checking in at the nearest Holiday Inn is to help defeat the outbreak at its source. Alternative ways of containing the outbreak — like banning travel and yanking visas — are much less targeted.
The West African deployment also passes the “possible” and “acceptable” tests. This is not to say the mission poses zero risks to our troops.
Even medical professionals who try to take all the right precautions have caught the disease. But, our troops are disciplined, and they should know the measures to take to lower their risk.
They are also brave, courageous and willing volunteers. They understand the danger. That is part of the job.
Rather than just appealing to “national security," the White House should have classified the operation correctly — as a humanitarian mission — and explained the reason for this auxiliary mission to the American people.
Words are important, and so are actions. Mislabeling missions, as Obama did earlier in calling our offensive against the extremist group Islamic State a “humanitarian” mission, suggests a dangerous confusion about the nature of true national security risks and the principle function of our military.
It also raises concern about the conduct of this mission. Has the White House organized operations efficiently and sent enough troops to West Africa? Or is the president simply throwing some troops at the problem so he can say he’s done something?