Andrew Bacevich, writing in the (English) Spectator, proposes a novel idea: soldiers should fight wars, not epidemics. Even Ebola epidemics. Bacevich:

As a general rule, soldiers should be employed in the business of soldiering — preparing to fight or actually fighting (preferably infrequent) wars. In response to the Ebola outbreak afflicting West Africa, the Obama administration has decided to waive that rule. His decision to do so has received widespread support. Yet the effect of his decision is to divert attention from questions of considerable urgency.

Bacevich is a Columbia University professor, whose son was killed fighting in Iraq and who was himself a harsh critic of the Iraq War. Bacevich notes that in sending soldiers to fight Ebola in Africa, President Obama is “drawing on the increasingly elastic authority exercised by the US commander-in-chief.”

Still, the concept of using soldiers to fight things other than wars is not new: in 1923, for example, the U.S. Army sent soldiers stationed in the Philippines to help with a Japanese earthquake. (Bacevich wryly notes: “Japanese gratitude expired some time before 7 December 1941.”)

American military personnel have also been sent to offer humanitarian help in Bangladesh, Somalia, and Indonesia—and a host of other places. One reason the military is chosen is that it is one American institution that retains widespread respect. These humanitarian deployments do nothing but increase the esteem in which the military is held, not to mention helping with the various humanitarian crises. So what’s not to like?

Two things. The first is that sending troops means using non-specialists to perform tasks requiring specialised skills. The second is that it provides an excuse for ignoring the US military’s performance when assigned tasks within their actual area of presumed expertise. …

What ultimately matters is what boots on the ground with guns accomplish when sent into action. Military forces exist to win wars. If they can’t do that, then good deeds performed when the guns are left at home don’t count for much.

As for the traditional job of the military, Steve Hayes notes in a Weekly Standard podcast that the Obama administration “does not seem committed” to winning the war against Isis.

Meanwhile, Peter Wehner also takes note of the “slapdash” war the U.S. is waging against ISIS:

Mr. Obama is waging this war in a slapdash fashion. (He is reluctant even to refer to this conflict as a war.) His approach is de minimis, a trifling, “defined mainly by its limitations,” according to the Washington Post. Unless he fundamentally alters his approach, the president has no chance to achieve his stated goal. The result may be the Islamic State, having withstood our strikes, will be seen as the “strong horse” in the Middle East. America, thanks to Mr. Obama, will be seen as the “weak horse.” And we know what that led to last time. “When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” So said Osama bin Laden shortly after 9/11.

Has Barack Obama learned nothing since then?

But don’t look at what the U.S. military is doing with regard to—you know—war. That’s so old hat. President Obama prefers that you observe what the American military is doing in West Africa, where we actually have boots on the ground.