Conservative media figures have criticized President Obama for sending the U.S. military to help address the public health crisis posed by Ebola in Africa, ignoring experts who explain the critical need for assistance to contain the outbreak and the military's unique capability to support in those efforts.
Obama Announces U.S. Troops Will Be Deployed To Address Ebola
Obama: U.S. Troops Will Be Sent To Address Global Threat Of Ebola. During a September 16 press briefing, President Obama announced that the United States planned to deploy 3,000 troops to West Africa in order to help address the threat posed by Ebola:
Obama's plan calls for sending 3,000 troops, including engineers and medical personnel; establishing a regional command and control center in Liberia's capital, Monrovia, commanded by Major General Darryl Williams, who arrived there on Tuesday; and forming a staging area in Senegal to help distribute personnel and aid on the ground.
It also calls for building 17 treatment centers with 100 beds each; placing U.S. Public Health Service personnel in new field hospitals in Liberia; training thousands of healthcare workers for six months or longer; and creating an “air bridge” to get health workers and medical supplies into West Africa more quickly [Reuters, 9/16/14]
Conservative Media Question Why Military Should Intervene In Ebola Outbreak
Fox Guest: Fighting Ebola “Is Not A Military Mission.” On the October 8 edition of Fox News' The Real Story, host Gretchen Carlson and Retired General William Boykin discussed Obama's decision to send troops to help address the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Boykin said that the military's job is to “fight and win wars,” claiming that fighting Ebola is “not a military mission.” [Fox News, The Real Story With Gretchen Carlson, 10/8/14]
National Review Online: Obama Cares More About “Helping People Overseas” Than The “Safety Of The American People.” In an October 7 post for National Review Online, columnist Thomas Sowell questioned why President Obama would put “the goal of helping people overseas” before Americans troops. Sowell claimed that Obama was “disregarding the dangers to those troops” because he cared more about being “a citizen of the world” :
Barack Obama has refused to bar entry to the United States by people from countries where the Ebola epidemic rages, as Britain has done.
The reason? Refusing to let people with Ebola enter the United States would conflict with the goal of fighting the disease. In other words, the safety of the American people takes second place to the goal of helping people overseas.
As if to emphasize his priorities, President Obama has ordered thousands of American troops to go into Ebola-stricken Liberia, disregarding the dangers to those troops and to other Americans when the troops return. [National Review Online, 10/7/14]
Breitbart: “Ebola Mission Not Worthy Of Our Troops.” In an October 3 post, Breitbart's Charles Hurt claimed that the United States' mission to address Ebola was “not worthy” of the United States military, suggesting that maybe Obama “doesn't like America's armed forces.” [Breitbart, 10/3/14]
WND: Why Will U.S. Troops Be Subject To A Deadly Viral Disease? An October 2 post on the conservative website WND questioned why President Obama was sending “valuable, highly trained warfighters” just to support public health work in Africa:
As 1,400 U.S. soldiers prepare to head to Liberia this month, critics are still wondering why President Obama is using his valuable, highly trained warfighters to provide mostly logistical and engineering support for health workers trying to stop the spread of Ebola.
A WND request to the DOD for a response to questions such as why U.S. troops are being used for support and engineering in a place that will subject them to a deadly viral disease went unanswered. [WND, 10/2/14]
The Blaze: Obama Sending Troops “Either As Distraction Or Abomination.” A September 22 post on The Blaze characterized the decision to send troops to aid in fight against Ebola as either “a distraction or abomination.” Claiming that the health threat would be “better suited to civilian health care professionals” the article criticized the World Health Organization for not doing more:
Military personnel are trained to perform their duties in a wartime environment. These highly trained, highly motivated personnel are soldier's first, and then job specialty second. Why are they being given a mission that seems much better suited to civilian health care professionals? If there is a security issue they should use local law enforcement or hire contracted security personnel, not use soldiers.
Why aren't African countries taking the lead on this? Why aren't the bleeding heart social medicine champions form Europe leading this charge, putting their money, people and materiel where their mouth is? The World Health Organization should be out front on this, along with other non-governmental organizations and countries who have much more skin in the game than we do. [The Blaze, 9/22/14]
Experts Say U.S. Military Is Uniquely Qualified To Address Ebola Outbreak
WHO Director Praises U.S. Action: “Surge Of Support Could Help Turn Things Around For The Roughly 22 Million People.” In a news bulletin, the Department of Defense (DoD) reported that Dr. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization (WHO), praised the United States for taking action to stop the Ebola outbreak and explained that its support “could help turn things around for the roughly 22 million people in the hardest-hit countries.” The DoD article also detailed Obama's strategy to contain the outbreak, including training for “up to 500 health care providers per week” (emphasis added):
The president said the team on the ground would create an air bridge to speed health workers and medical supplies into West Africa, and establish a staging area in Senegal to more quickly get personnel and aid on the ground.
On Sept., 16, the Defense Department requested to reprogram an additional $500 million in fiscal year 2014 overseas contingency operations funds to provide urgent humanitarian assistance to fight Ebola. This is on top of a previous reprogramming request of $500 million for both Iraq and Ebola, defense officials said. As such, DoD would be prepared to devote up to $1 billion to Ebola response efforts. A portion of funding will be used to fulfill requirements identified by CDC, the U.S. Agency for International Development, the Joint Staff and Africom.
The funds will provide military air transportation for DoD and non-DoD personnel and supplies, medical treatment facilities, personnel protective equipment and medical supplies, logistics and engineering support, and subject matter experts in support of sanitation and mortuary affairs. [Department of Defense, 9/19/2014]
Daily Beast: Military Operations Can Provide Larger-Scale Assistance Than Any Other Organization. In a September 19 article on The Daily Beast, a former soldier noted that the United States military is uniquely qualified to respond to disasters like Ebola because they have the ability to “scale up relief operations very quickly” :
For better or worse--and there are vocal arguments against the re-purposing of military forces as aid providers--the U.S. military can scale up relief operations very quickly, in ways other organizations can't match. After the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln provided purified water from its on-board desalinization plant and delivered more than 2 million pounds of food and over 700,000 pounds of medical supplies. [The Daily Beast, 9/19/14]
Wash. Post: “Only the U.S. Military Had The Capacity To Move With Enough Speed And Scale” To Address Ebola Outbreak. In an October 4 article discussing the global failure to properly address the Ebola outbreak, the Washington Post reported that as the outbreak progressed, it became evident that “only the U.S. military had the capacity to move with enough speed and scale” to address Ebola:
By the first week of September, senior officials across the U.S. government had come to a grim realization: The civilian response was never going to happen fast enough to catch up with the epidemic. The CDC had managed to put more than 100 staff members on the ground and the U.S. disaster relief team had dispatched 30 more, but they and other aid workers were facing too big of a challenge. Only the U.S. military had the capacity to move with enough speed and scale. [The Washington Post, 10/4/14]