Military testing White House’s resistance to Ebola quarantine

When the White House is not admonishing its political opponents for failing to observe what they subjectively determine to be proper deference to Science when it comes to containing Ebola, the White House is leaving institutions like the military utterly confused on its policy toward quarantining.

With hundreds of U.S. servicemen and women deployed to Western Africa where they are working to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola epidemic, the military has quietly instituted a policy of isolating troops returning from hot zones like Liberia in a quarantine ward on a military base in Vicenza, Italy.

“Currently, a team that consists of Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams and 11 other troops is being held in isolation,” Fox News reported on Monday. Military officials believe that “several dozen” more soldiers are expected to soon transfer that isolation unit, but they officials were also clear to insist that no specific incident triggered this policy.

Questions remain, however, as to what is the White House’s official policy on quarantining American soldiers overseas. The administration has made it clear they oppose isolating potentially infected care workers returning from hot zones abroad in quarantine against their will, but they have not been clear about whether they oppose this policy for members of the U.S. military.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel currently is considering the Joint Chiefs’ recommendation to impose a mandatory 21-day quarantine for all returning troops. At Monday’s daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that Hagel might coordinate with the White House on that decision.

But when pressed by Fox News on what the president’s position is, Earnest would not say.

“We will let the Department of Defense make an announcement,” Earnest said. Asked how the U.S. could send troops to West Africa without a clear plan on procedures for leaving the Ebola battlefield, Earnest said: “We’re going to let science drive that process.”

CNN reported that a full quarantine of the 4,000 American service personnel serving in Africa may be in the offing. “A full military quarantine would be a stunning reversal,” CNN’s Barbara Starr reported.

It seems that Science, which the White House insists is an enemy of quarantining in New Jersey and New York, is inexplicably amenable to isolating American soldiers who serve in areas where the disease is rampant. But it is the public, you see, and not the logical left that is succumbing to reptilian bouts of panic over this perfectly containable disease.

The president’s defenders are quick to heap scorn on Republicans (and insufficiently progressive Democrats) whom they say are politicizing the issue of Ebola ahead of the 2014 midterms, but they have been conspicuously silent on the administration’s inability to develop a consistent approach to this health crisis.

Perhaps after the election, Obama’s backers can stop massaging their egos by issuing recriminations against those who are attempting to safeguard the public health and place some onus on the administration to do the same.