By: Andrew, Lindsay, Elias
PRO/CON: Should U.S. troops be fighting Ebola in West Africa?
CON: The U.S. military is already overextended
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama is using American troops to combat Ebola to show the world he cares enough to send our very best. But our soldiers aren’t Hallmark greeting cards.
Like many of Obama’s foreign policy plans, his Ebola plan has a ready-shoot-aim quality to it.
Here are reasons why our military isn’t the best vehicle for offering assistance:
Our military is already overextended. The president has decided to cut the Army from its wartime high of 570,000 soldiers to 440,000. The administration’s Quadrennial Defense Review said this “strains our ability" to simultaneously respond to more than one major military action at a time.
That assessment came before the president announced plans to send 4,000 soldiers to West Africa, a number sure to grow given the president’s recent decision to call up National Guard soldiers waiting on reserve. It was also before military operations were launched against the extremist group Islamic State, a campaign that may ultimately require ground forces.
PROs of sending troops to West Africa
PRO: U.S. troops are skilled at assisting in emergencies
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.