“We must fight over there so that we don’t have to fight over here”

The above statement is the excuse given by warmongers in the US to invade, bomb, or otherwise engage in wars in distant countries. It is argued that if we do not suppress whatever the perceived threat is on its home turf, then those same people will invade our shores and threaten us at home, ignoring the counter-argument that it is our war making that is either causing or exacerbating the problem.

This has always been a poor argument when applied to those whom the US government labels as terrorists. But when it comes to infectious diseases like Ebola, the same argument is actually sound. The best way to combat the threat of infectious diseases is to fight it at its source, thus preventing it from spreading all over the globe.

Of course in the bizarre world that we live in that is dominated by the warped thinking and ridiculous posturing world of US politicians, we do the opposite. The same warmongers so anxious to fight overseas, when faced with the threat of Ebola, reverse the argument and act like the best way to fight the scourge is to withdraw and close ourselves off, by banning people from coming here and taking steps, like strict quarantine even for asymptomatic people, that will actually discourage health workers from going there to stop the disease in its tracks.

Like Cuba, which currently has sent hundreds of medical personnel to West Africa (thanks to Lassi Hippeläinen for the link), we should be sending doctors and nurses and supplies to that region. Even the New York Times has noted the difference.

The New York Times October recently praised Cuba for sending health workers to West Africa to fight Ebola. “Cuba stands to play the most robust role among the nations seeking to contain the virus,” the Times said, adding that “Cuba’s contribution (…) should be lauded and emulated.”

More than that: “[O]nly Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.” Indeed nations “with the most to offer” have held back.

Ebola doctors


  1. says

    The argument that one must act to pre-empt a threat is inherently immoral, especially if it involves violence. We recognize this in our day-to-day lives and common law, but don’t appear to hold international leaders to the same standards. If my neighbor tells me “I am going to kick your ass” it’s not accepted, generally, to respond with overwhelming force if all he did was announce his intent. International leaders would apparently argue that a moral response would be for me to blow up the neighbor’s house (hopefully with him in it) and collateral damage of wife, kids, and cat is just an unfortunate detail. In the real world, we understand that a rational person would not actually start to defend themself unless/until the tough-talking neighbor actually started to do something aggressive. Sure, if my neighbor tells me they’re going to shoot me, I’ll run like hell if they go for a gun. But shooting them if they turn around and go inside is not moral, because they might have gone inside to make a cup of tea and the talk about the gun was simply bloviating.

    We citizens of the world need to fight back against the idea of preemptive warfare. It has been sold over and over again by the US as part of its “statecraft” (I used scarequotes there because I prefer the word “thuggery” and think that the US’ actions have damn little to do with statecraft) I’ve argued before in comments on this blog why preemptive warfare is not only immoral, but stupid. We all must recognize its immorality and stupidity, and hold our leaders accountable when they engage in it, because it is aggression.

    In high school I was one of the “military history club” (i.e.: wargamers and D&D players) and one of my classmates, Phil Carrol, had a doctrine he used to demonstrate often: “diplomacy is the art of screwing someone and saying ‘now look what you’ve gone and made me do'” Phil won a lot of our lunchtime Diplomacy games.

  2. says

    I wonder if the troops are in Africa with the idea that if things go completely insane, they could close the airports at the “send” end. I wonder if the troops realize that, as usual, their lives are designed to be thrown away if that happens.

  3. Chiroptera says

    More than that: “[O]nly Cuba and a few nongovernmental organizations are offering what is most needed: medical professionals in the field.” Indeed nations “with the most to offer” have held back.

    And here in the US, there is a significant number of people who want to punish medical workers who volunteer to help in this crisis with what are essentially 21 day jail sentences when they return.

  4. alkaloid says

    @Marcus Ranum #1

    We recognize this in our day-to-day lives and common law, but don’t appear to hold international leaders to the same standards.

    Isn’t a big part of the problem that the mechanisms for holding international leaders to those standards tend to be either broken or nonexistent? A significant portion of the worst among them (I’m thinking especially of Kissinger and a lot of the neocons) were never actually elected to any position-so even beyond the issue of their jailable offenses they can’t really be removed on that basis either.

  5. lorn says

    The difference is nowhere near as clear as you assert. The US is doing what it does best. Building, logistics, transportation, security.

    The US is sending an initial 700 personnel to erect 17 hospitals with 100 beds each. The number is expected to go to 4000. These are current military stock standard units that come with air conditioning, power generation, and water treatment systems to supply them. A significant advance over most of the hospitals in the area. One of the biggest problems with Ebola in Liberia is a lack of hospital space.

    Speaking to nurse friends they relate that it doesn’t take many doctors to treat a whole lot of Ebola cases. It isn’t like they need a whole lot more management beyond what nurses routinely manage without a whole lot of help from doctors. Any well trained primary care nurse can handle IVs, electrolyte balance and a routine medications that are the backbone of treatment. It isn’t easy doing it all in a plastic suit, even though air conditioning helps a lot, but it doesn’t require many MDs.

    You also seem to paint a bright line between US troops doing a construction job and Cuban doctors that may not exist in practical terms. As I understand it Cuban doctors are employees of the state. which makes them much closer to most US military doctors who are essentially civilians employed by the military. They get a some military training, wear a uniform, and hold rank, but most are not soldiers. Doctors are not like your usual soldiers who are expected to salute smartly and follow orders. All of the doctors are volunteers with far more freedom than your typical soldier. Most could simply give up their commission and walk away if pushed too hard. It isn’t like we are going to shoot them or force them to break rocks.


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