Boots On The Ground In Liberia

From the Times:

U.S. to Commit Up to 3,000 Troops to Fight Ebola in Africa

WASHINGTON — Under pressure to do more to confront the Ebola outbreak sweeping across West Africa, President Obama on Tuesday is to announce an expansion of military and medical resources to combat the spread of the deadly virus, administration officials said.

The president will go beyond the 25-bed portable hospital that Pentagon officials said they would establish in Liberia, one of the three West African countries ravaged by the disease, officials said. Mr. Obama will offer help to President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia in the construction of as many as 17 Ebola treatment centers in the region, with about 1,700 treatment beds.

Senior administration officials said Monday night that the Department of Defense would open a joint command operation in Monrovia, Liberia, to coordinate the international effort to combat the disease. The military will also provide engineers to help construct the additional treatment facilities and will send enough people to train up to 500 health care workers a week to deal with the crisis.


Officials said the military expected to send as many as 3,000 people to Africa to take charge of responding to the Ebola outbreak.


I am hazy as to the use of the word "Troops" in the headline; maybe it shouldn't, but it makes me think of guys with guns, rather than doctors, engineers and logistics specialists.


And the lead tells us that Obama has been "Under pressure to do more". So what? He has been under pressure to do more (and less!) on immigration and ISIS, to pick two other brewing debacles. Reports like this suggest that Ebola has the potential to take us into science fiction post-Apocalyptic terrotory, but the science is unsettled.


Is Obama leading on Liberia, or did someone just find an especially sensitive pressure point? And as to the use of the military, is dying of Ebola less dead than being shot (or beheaded) by ISIS?


Here is the White House fact sheet, which includes this description of the troops and the mission:

The United States will leverage the unique capabilities of the U.S. military and broader uniformed services to help bring the epidemic under control. These efforts will entail command and control, logistics expertise, training, and engineering support.

If we were sending out soldiers to provide basic maintenance of law and order I would be beside myself. But from another perspective, is this US effort sufficient in itself, a valuable contribution to a much larger multi-national surge, or an under-resourced feel-good mission that amounts to spitting into a forest fire?


After six years with Obama I know my bet. From the Times:

Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said the plan was an important first step, “but it is clearly not enough.” The focus on Liberia, he said, is too limited, and more help should be extended to Sierra Leone and Guinea, the other countries at the center of the worst Ebola outbreak ever recorded.

“We should see all of West Africa now as one big outbreak,” Dr. Osterholm said. “It’s very clear we have to deal with all the areas with Ebola. If the U.S. is not able or not going to do it, that’s all the more reason to say the rest of the world has to do it.

AS I WAS SAYING: The WaPo editors on ISIS:

The U.S. strategy to defeat the Islamic State is underpowered

And it's not even feel-good.