On Containing Isis And Ebola
How indirect contact with disease and state- sponsored terror affects us all (but mostly everyone else).
Over the past three weeks, Ebola's spread in West Africa has helped precipitate some of the most blood-curdling fears of pathogenic annihilation ever felt by the international community. A heavy handed global response, coupled with the virus' own destructive properties (70% of those infected are expected to wither and rot), has compelled many of the world's top foreign health care operatives to combat the disease's continued escalation before it matures into an all- out pandemic.
Quelling fears at home and abroad, President Obama has now ordered 3,000 U.S. troops to the hardest hit regions of Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone; providing aid and military assistance to the wearied doctors, nurses, and volunteers working tirelessly to combat this pestilent new strain. Despite our best relief efforts however, the U.S. is also in the midst of containing an equally, if not more damaging contagion in neighboring Syria and Iraq, known as ISIS (or ISIL). While Ebola may be on the cusp of decimating impoverished tribes, clans, and entire communities -- radical Islamic fundamentalism is enjoying a luxuriant new fever pitch all over the Middle East.
America has lost a considerable amount of credibility over the last ten years rebuilding and re-imagining "democracy" within a region fraught with pervasive economic, religious, social, and political unrest. If we're determined to "degrade and destroy" any of these burgeoning epidemics, we'll need to remind ourselves of the transitive power of ideals, and how ideology can splash, trickle, and swell just as expeditiously as disease. When such an unfavorable climate of ongoing war exists deep within our collective anti-terror saga, the most potent vaccine to dismantle continued bloodshed may prove to be our own historical vigilance.
As perhaps all wide-eyed optimistic Americans tend to be, we are acutely unaware of the lengthy battles ahead necessary to isolate and repress these new threats. Although the media would have us believe these dangers are wholly imminent and pose a significant risk to national security, the most perilous exposure falls on the heels of millions of Africans and Iraqis, Syrians, Shias (and Kurds) who lack the infrastructure and resources needed to adequately wage their own, increasingly beleaguered offensives. Declaring another war on Isis after a universally disparaged mishandling of Iraq and Afghanistan could very well result in another prolonged, drawn out military campaign we are simply not prepared to revisit.
The United Nations' led World Health Organization now predicts up to 20,000 West Africans could become infected if little or no unilateral action is taken to curb the disease, with higher estimates putting the virus on track to reaching 1.4 million by the end of the year. This alarmingly potent, microscopic menace has feverishly eclipsed bureaucratic discord to emerge as one of the most punishing, ruthless executioners this region has ever faced. Slaughtering villages freely without penance or remorse sounds strikingly familiar to the Islamic State's own modus operandi; waging unbridled assaults fueled by oil, kidnapping, wealthy private donors, and social media- driven intimidation. While Isis is clearly a money making juggernaut, West Africa's tragic plight lies in the fiscal ineptitude and lack of urgency missing from the outbreak's initial inception.
President Obama may have little recourse but to suffer the consequences of destroying a military caliphate poised to control the territory we fought so hard and so many years to keep intact. When a new system we put in place eventually breaks down, we'll find ourselves in the same compromised position as before -- coming back time and time again until a new host forms (or a new strain develops) that will ultimately devour our last shred of political will. If we had acted as expediently as the world expected us to, we may have been in the comfortable position to halt these looming threats before they seized national headlines. Our 24-hour-news cycle dictates that we live in an apostatized whack-a-mole of geopolitical turmoil and upheaval, governed by isolated mishaps plunging and rising in uncalibrated unison. If the United States fails to act quickly enough, we'll have to wait and see if we can right another wrong without getting our hands soaked in adulterated blood.
We can only hope it doesn't spread more fear, or panic, and just enough lust for one more war.