Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Enforcing a regional quarantine in the US with the military?

I was just listening to Bush at his press conference and he was slung one low and slow about bird flu. He was clearly ready. He even knew it was called H5N1 and he puffed John Barry's book (The Great Influenza) which he said he read to learn some policy options for handling a pandemic.

Jeez. If you look at government policies in the Wilson Administration (Barry has said elsewhere that in comparison they make The Patriot Act look like something penned by the ACLU), that's a pretty chilling thought. Specifically, Bush was asked if he saw a larger role for the military in the event of a pandemic and he essentially responded, "Yes," saying that if avian influenza were to break out in a portion of the country, one option might be to "quarantine" that area and use the military to enforce it.

Outside of the fact this kind of thinking is pretty scary stuff, most public health experts know it won't work. Movement is too free and easily accomplished and the American people cannot be forced to do something they think will hurt them or their families. They'll find a way around it with ease. Remember that a quarantine would have to be essentially complete and airtight, because this is a self-reproducing organism. Only one or a few people getting through or for that matter entering the US from elsewhere where the disease is active would negate such a Draconian measure. Bush's public health experts certainly have told him this, so one can assume its object is not to stop disease spread but to control the population.

Indeed, given our total lack of preparation and the lack of leadership of the Administration, the biggest effect of a pandemic might be a breakdown in social order. So Bush is preparing the ground ahead of time.