In the Fight Against ISIS and Ebola, Only God Can Help Us Now

Liberian health workers. Three thousand U.S. troops are expected to fight Ebola in West Africa. (Photo: Zoom Dosso, AFP/Getty Images)
Liberian health workers. Three thousand U.S. troops are expected to fight Ebola in West Africa.
(Photo: Zoom Dosso, AFP/Getty Images)

The most troubling thing about Ebola isn’t the virus, but government incompetence.

Looking at the situation today, science fiction writer Jerry Pournelle comments: “God protects fools, drunks, and the United States of America. Of course we were a much more devout nation when (Otto von) Bismarck made that observation.”

Pournelle is not sanguine about the Obama administration’s handling of Ebola in America, Ebola in Africa, or ISIL in Iraq. And he has reason for his concern.

In reverse order: ISIL is winning in Iraq, and we are losing. Airstrikes — quite modest ones compared to those unleashed against Saddam Hussein’s armies over a decade ago — aren’t doing the job, and the Defense Department doesn’t seem to be able to round up enough (any?) of those much-touted “moderate” Syrian rebels to form a serious opposition force. The Kurds are stressed, and we’re not getting them enough supplies. Meanwhile, the Kurds’ long-term enemies, the Turks — Turkey is a NATO ally of the United States — are actually bombing the Kurds rather than ISIL.

Pournelle argues that a modest number of boots on the ground would make a difference in Iraq: “A regiment of Marines with air support could accomplish wonders in this battle. For that matter, selected units of the 101st Airborne could, on 24-hours notice, completely change the course of the war against the caliphate. Whether that would be a good use of the troops can be debated, but if saving Kurds is an American goal, this would be a more appropriate use of troops than sending them into a plague zone.”

But a plague zone is where we’re sending them: Some 3,000 U.S. troops, having received all of four hours training on Ebola, will be sent to the hot spots of West Africa to support relief efforts. What they will do is not entirely clear, but it seems likely that some of them will wind up being infected, and America — which has only 19 beds nationwide for Ebola patients — will have to treat them somehow.

Which is a problem, since we don’t seem to be doing very well at treating the handful of cases of Ebola we already have. Dallas patient Thomas Duncan has infected at least two nurses who treated him, and about 1,000 people are being monitored. The Dallas hospital that treated Duncan is hemorrhaging patients and money as no one else wants to stay there. And this is just the consequence of one imported case of Ebola.

Here in the States, of course, we’ve got something that the African Ebola victims don’t — a brand new Ebola czar. Back when I was in law school, a cynical friend used to point to various national problems being handled poorly and joke: “Don’t worry. We’ve got lots of lawyers working on it.” So it’s fitting, I guess, that our Ebola czar isn’t a public health professional, or a physician, or even our old Ebola czar, Dr. Nicole Lurie, who’s been out of sight since things heated up, but rather Ron Klain, a lawyer-lobbyist who has represented outfits like Fannie Mae and Cigna.

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Source: USA Today | Glenn Harlan Reynolds

Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor, is the author of The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself.

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