Thinking Aloud: Training Big Guns on Ebola

Sept. 8, 2014 by Darius 

Yesterday, President Obama announced that the US military would provide logistical support to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.  Kudos to Obama: this hits the foreign policy sweet spot in that (1) Ebola, unchecked, poses a direct physical or existential threat to the US, (2) tackling Ebola is within current US capabilities, and (3) US action now can make a significant difference.

Sending the US military to help West Africa fight Ebola combines the most important criteria for a worthy intervention.  For starters, Ebola is a serious threat to the United States.  The longer the outbreak continues, the higher the chance that the virus will ultimately spread to the US.  Second, the US military will be able to provide a major boost to the effort to contain Ebola through its immense logistical capacity and unparalleled aerial transportation resources.  Third, there is limited direct risk to US personnel.  Fourth, the costs of such intervention are (a) rather small by the military’s standards, running only to a few hundred million dollars and (b) a good investment to avoid even greater costs later.

And, finally, as a bonus, the US military gets to intervene in a Muslim country without invading it :-).  Everyone wins: the countries afflicted by Ebola, the NGOs currently spearheading the effort to fight it, and the US itself, both directly and in terms of global opinion.  This is just about as close as one can get to the ideal intervention in my book.

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