Pentagon Warns They Aren’t Set Up to Fight Coronavirus

Dems are calling for US to declare war, militarize fight against outbreak

With many politicians long seeing the military as an all-purpose problem solver with a bottomless budget, it is unsurprising that the outbreak of coronavirus has many, particularly high-ranking Democrats, angling for a declaration of war and an outright militarization of the domestic issue.

I would call out the military now,” Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden said on Sunday. He said it’s an emergency and the US needs to treat it like a war. He suggested that the military could provide a “surge” for US hospitals, building more beds and tents that are secure. “We’re at war with the virus,” Biden added.

They all think that sounds like a great idea, except for the US military itself. Pentagon officials are warning that fighting a virus really isn’t their thing, and that those tent hospitals are designed to treat combat casualties, not respiratory illness.

Gen. Paul Friedrichs, the top medical adviser to the Joint Chiefs, said that the US military simply doesn’t have any 500-bed hospitals designed for infectious disease. Even more of a problem, they don’t have a bunch of idle doctors and nurses to man them if they did.

If the military was expected to set up such tent hospitals, they’d have to call in reserves and the National Guard to staff them, and many of them would be taken away from civilian facilities, meaning they’re just shifting people from a building to a tent.

Friedrichs added that the military is eager to help, but that he thinks the Pentagon needs to be transparent about its limitations before starting this huge “war” for the sake of public health. Whether that will deter anyone remains to be seen.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of Antiwar.com.