The uniformed military has laid down a major marker in the tussle over Ebola quarantines. The Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended a 21 day quarantine from all service personnel returning from West Africa:
The Joint Chiefs of Staff have recommended to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel that all troops returning from deployments in West Africa to combat the Ebola virus be quarantined for 21 days, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, delivered the service chiefs’ recommendation to follow the Army’s lead on the policy of 21 days of isolation, said Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary.
On Monday, Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, ordered 21 days of isolation and “enhanced monitoring” for Army Maj. Gen. Darryl Williams and 11 other troops who were returning to Italy from leading the initial efforts by the military to contain the Ebola virus in Liberia.
The Army has already ordered a quarantine of its personnel, and Hagel has stated that he will not overrule that decision. Now he has to decide whether to order a quarantine policy for all services:
Kirby said Hagel “supports the decision the Army leadership made” while stressing that Hagel had yet to reach a decision on whether the 21-days isolation rule should apply to all services.
The Pentagon press secretary said there was no timeline for Hagel to make a decision but added that one was expected soon.
Given the administration’s obvious and almost frenzied opposition to any quarantines or travel bans, this is a major repudiation of Obama policy and judgment. I suspect it reflects a judgment on the civilian leadership that transcends the Ebola issue.
For his part, Obama strode to the WH lawn to tell us that quarantines and travel bans were bad because, Science! And because health workers were doing God’s work. Well, doing God’s work is not incompatible with taking prudent precautions to prevent said workers from infecting God’s children. Quite consistent with it in fact.
Meanwhile we learned some suspiciously suppressed facts about Quarantines are Bad poster nurse Kacia Hickox. Some very interesting facts. Such as that she worked/works for the CDC. And that she was miraculously able to retain a high-powered civil rights attorney almost immediately after being quarantined, and that this said attorney is connected to the White House. There are no coincidences, comrades.
Hickox raised alarms in my mind with her stridency and sense of entitlement, and failure to even acknowledge that as a public health worker, there might be a public health case, rather than a Kacia Hickox case, for quarantining her. How warranted those concerns were. So if you are wondering what Ebola Czar Ron “Flounder” Klain has been doing out of the public eye, wonder no longer.
Back to the JCS. Now Hagel is well and truly between a rock and a hard place. The uniformed military is almost certainly livid over the way the campaign against ISIS is being waged, and the events over the past several years that have led up to it. To have Hagel cave on Ebola to pressure from Obama would only stoke that anger. Obama has done serious damage to many institutions in this country. Civil-military relations could be yet another.