Bush Considers Military Option Against Bird Flu
President Bush says he can envision using the military to enforce a quarantine against the Asian bird flu under some circumstances.
President George W. Bush suggested using the military to contain any epidemic of avian influenza on Tuesday, saying Congress needs to consider the possibility. He said the military, perhaps the National Guard, might be needed to enforce quarantines if the feared H5N1 bird flu virus changes enough to cause widespread human infection.
“If we had an outbreak somewhere in the United States, do we not then quarantine that part of the country? And how do you, then, enforce a quarantine?” Bush asked at a news conference. “It’s one thing to shut down airplanes. It’s another thing to prevent people from coming in to get exposed to the avian flu. And who best to be able to effect a quarantine?” Bush added.
“One option is the use of a military that’s able to plan and move. So that’s why I put it on the table. I think it’s an important debate for Congress to have.”
Unless we’re planning to declare war against the bird flu, it’s not really Congress’ decision but the president’s.
One could envision a scenario where the military was the only viable enforcement mechanism. Still, the continued faith in the military as a first resort mechanism for dealing with domestic crises is problematic. It is a defining element in the political culture of the undeveloped world and one I would not care to see institutionalized here.