Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Pilot Error

Now that a few air strikes seem to have blunted the ISIS appetite for continuing the attack on refugees in Kurdistan, the even bigger problem emerges.
The refugees (in what numbers? reports range from 50,000 to 1+ million) cannot continue to live in the wilderness where they now squat.  There is no food, water or shelter. A representative from the Department of State said, “We are looking at every possible solution.” Truth is, there are really only four.
1) Avoid the problem. Get somebody else (Iraq, the Kurds, the French, anybody) to belly up to the problem, while the US "leads from behind."  Or more precisely, leads from Martha’s Vineyard.
2) Continue to supply the refugees by air where they are, indefinitely. This might be technically possible, but it is not really sustainable in the long run. Imagine moving 100,000 city-dwellers (complete with children, pregnant women, hospital patients, and their elderly) to a scorching desert mountain without any food, shelter or medicine. Now imagine supplying everything they need by air, when the nearest friendly runway is a five hour flight away.
3) Return them to their homes.  Perfect solution. Except it would require eliminating a hostile army, one pickup truck at a time, while that army mixes in with a civilian population.   This would require a ground offensive. And someone would have to do the actual fighting – suffer casualties against  the ISIS army and their US provided equipment, in order to regain somebody else’s homeland. Good luck with that. 
4) Evacuate the refugees to somewhere else.  Just finding and collecting the refugees  would be a massive operation – maybe 5000 aircraft sorties of many hours each, through hostile airspace. The logistical tail (fuel, maintenance, medical help, etc.)  would be enormous, as would the security umbrella.  And movement to where? Who would take perhaps as many as a quarter million refugees?
Breaking news reports suggest that US “State Department officials and USAID” are working to find such a location.
Hum-m-m-m-.  DOS and USAID.  I am reminded that the recent plan to send Department of State officials to Honduras to screen potential illegal immigrants was called a “pilot  program." The idea was to "pre-qualify" selected people as legal immigrants, and grant them access by Executive Order.  Once they were granted formal refugees status, they would be guaranteed admission.  And the US would help to transport them. 
What is a "pilot program?"  It is an experiment to sort out the kinks for a larger program later. 
            Well, now it is later.

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