We are at a point where it is difficult to determine if our nation is endangered by the possibility of more cases of Ebola entering our nation because of “incompetence or willful misdirection.”
I highly recommend taking the time to read Jonathan V. Last’s excellent article, “Six Reasons to Panic,” which appears in the current issue of The Weekly Standard. Jonathan Last states,
As a rule, one should not panic at whatever crisis has momentarily fixed the attention of cable news producers. But the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, which has migrated to both Europe and America, may be the exception that proves the rule. There are at least six reasons that a controlled, informed panic might be in order.
We have discussed much of this material over the past few weeks. Jonathan Last brings together the information relating to the Ebola epidemic and how Obama’s political goals have put us in much greater danger. Last summarizes all of this very well.
Last made six major points to consider,
(1) Start with what we know, and don’t know, about the virus. Officials from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and other government agencies claim that contracting Ebola is relatively difficult because the virus is only transmittable by direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person who has become symptomatic. Which means that, in theory, you can’t get Ebola by riding in the elevator with someone who is carrying the virus, because Ebola is not airborne.
This sounds reassuring. Except that it might not be true.
(2) General infection rates are terrifying, too. In epidemiology, you measure the “R0,” or “reproduction number” of a virus; that is, how many new infections each infected person causes. When R0 is greater than 1, the virus is spreading through a population. When it’s below 1, the contamination is receding. In September the World Health Organization’s Ebola Response Team estimated the R0 to be at 1.71 in Guinea and 2.02 in Sierra Leone. Since then, it seems to have risen so that the average in West Africa is about 2.0. In September the WHO estimated that by October 20, there would be 3,000 total cases in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. As of October 7, the count was 8,376.
(3) Do you really want to be scared? What’s to stop a jihadist from going to Liberia, getting himself infected, and then flying to New York and riding the subway until he keels over? This is just the biological warfare version of a suicide bomb. Can you imagine the consequences if someone with Ebola vomited in a New York City subway car? A flight from Roberts International in Monrovia to JFK in New York is less than $2,000, meaning that the planning and infrastructure needed for such an attack is relatively trivial. This scenario may be highly unlikely. But so were the September 11 attacks and the Richard Reid attempted shoe bombing, both of which resulted in the creation of a permanent security apparatus around airports. We take drastic precautions all the time, if the potential losses are serious enough, so long as officials are paying attention to the threat.
(4) Let’s put aside the Ebola-as-weapon scenario—some things are too depressing to contemplate at length—and look at the range of scenarios for what we have in front of us, from best-case to worst-case. The epidemiological protocols for containing Ebola rest on four pillars: contact tracing, case isolation, safe burial, and effective public information. On October 14, the New York Times reported that in Liberia, with “only” 4,000 cases, “Schools have shut down, elections have been postponed, mining and logging companies have withdrawn, farmers have abandoned their fields.” Which means that the baseline for “best-case” is already awful.
(5) And by the way, things could get worse. All of those worst-case projections assume that the virus stays contained in a relatively small area of West Africa, which, with a million people infected, would be highly unlikely. What happens if and when the virus starts leaking out to other parts of the world?
Marine Corps General John F. Kelly talked about Ebola at the National Defense University two weeks ago and mused about what would happen if Ebola reached Haiti or Central America, which have relatively easy access to America. “If it breaks out, it’s literally ‘Katie bar the door,’ and there will be mass migration into the United States,” Kelly said. “They will run away from Ebola, or if they suspect they are infected, they will try to get to the United States for treatment.”
(6) While we’re on the subject of political crisis, it’s worth noting that the politics of Ebola are uncertain and dangerous to everyone involved. Thus far, there’s been only one serious political clash over Ebola, and that’s concerning the banning of flights to and from the infected countries in West Africa. The Obama administration refuses to countenance such a move, with the CDC’s Frieden flatly calling it “wrong”:
Ebola has the potential to reshuffle American attitudes to immigration. If you agree to seal the borders to mitigate the risks from Ebola, you’re implicitly rejecting the “open borders” mindset and admitting that there are cases in which government has a duty to protect citizens from outsiders. Some people on the left admit to seeing this as the thin end of the wedge. Writing in the New Yorker, Michael Specter lamented, “Several politicians, like Governor Bobby Jindal, of Louisiana, have turned the epidemic into fodder for their campaign to halt immigration.” And that sort of thing just can’t be allowed.
What would happen in the event of an Ebola outbreak in Latin America? Then America would have to worry about masses of uninfected immigrants surging across the border—not to mention carriers of the virus. And if we had decided it was okay to cut off flights from West Africa, would we decide it was okay to try to seal the Southern border too? You can see how the entire immigration project might start to come apart.
So for now, the Obama administration will insist on keeping travel open between infected countries and the West and hope that they, and we, get lucky.
We have arrived at a moment with our elite institutions where it is impossible to distinguish incompetence from willful misdirection. This can only compound an already dangerous situation.
Hopefully Obama will not be hiding Ebola cases in an attempt to prevent a growing demand to ban travel from countries with Ebola cases and to fully secure our border. If there is just one more case of Ebola in the United States, Congress and the American people will demand a travel ban and a fully secured border.
Obama realizes that his Obama Amnesty plan would begin to unravel if there is another Ebola case. Obama’s major goal remains giving the vote to tens of millions of present and future illegal immigrants, which would give the Democrats a permanent voting majority.