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Where would the Big Government Left be without it?
Its official: the Gulf Oil Spill is now a crisis. Or to put a finer point on it: the government’s response to it is officially a crisis. How can you tell? The President recently pledged to send in the military. For the federal government, that is the ultimate expression of seriousness. For the Left it is an intimate admission of defeat.
It is difficult for anything in government to be truly a crisis until the military is called in. To most everyone not in the federal government, the oil spill was a crisis from Day One. In a recent CNN/Opinion Research poll, 74% of respondents said they disapproved of the way the federal government was handling the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Of the 25% who approved, you can bet none of them lived around the Gulf.
For the Left, such need for military assistance is doubly galling.
For one thing, liberals want government doing more. So episodes in which the government is unable to do something is bad for the business of bigger government. It is hard to convince the country you need a bigger government when what apparently is really needed is a bigger military.
For another thing, America’s Left has always had a problem embracing the military. There is a noticeable liberal discomfort with it. In this, they have little in common with its foreign brethren.
Abroad, the Left has taken to the military with gusto. Mao sported a PLA uniform to the grave. At one time, it was probably the most widely worn apparel in the world — thanks to China’s large population and the Communist Party’s rigid orthodoxy, not to its sartorial styling.
In the USSR, the military was the communist government’s last vestige of respectability. Whatever else did not work in the state — i.e., everything else — its military had defeated Germany and saved the Motherland. When it failed in Afghanistan, the party collapsed at home, devoid of all legitimacy.
And to a second generation of “fellow travelers,” a wispy whiskered Che in a military beret has become a global icon.
Back here in America though, the federal government’s calling in of the military is an admission that the government apparatus to be “aided” is not up to snuff.
That such an admission must be made from time to time should not be surprising. Government’s real competency is in telling others to do things — not in doing those things themselves. So when things need to be done faster than the government can tell others to do them, the military is summoned.
And thank goodness they are. The problem for the military is that it therefore gets many jobs that are not its to do. What does the military know about oil spills? Apparently, more than anyone else in government.
Nation-building? Call the military. Of course, the military’s job is precisely the opposite. Or at least it used to be. You would think the Peace Corps might get that nation-building call — at least based on its name — but no. The folks in uniform are called in to do the thing that diplomats, people trained in negotiating, cannot do.
Illegal immigration? Call the military. To the military, securing the borders once meant actually repelling armed intrusions. The federal government has both a Customs and Border Patrol and an Immigration and Naturalization Service. But the border has become the military’s job as well.
Natural disaster? Again, call the military. Sure there is a Federal Emergency Management Agency, but first let the military make a natural disaster less of, well…a disaster. Then call FEMA.
The military does not get all these jobs just because it is big. The U.S. Postal Service is big — it is widely dispersed, and its personnel wear uniforms too — but no one considers calling them to clean up oil. The military gets them because it is a bastion of Can-Do competency within a vast wilderness of Tell-Others bureaucracy. It actually gets things done.
It is said when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail. The military must be feeling a lot like that hammer right now. You could not blame them. With all these unrelated tasks being thrust on them, people in the Pentagon must be feeling like they were suckered into more than a name change in the late 1940s when they ceased being called the Department of War.
The Gulf Oil Spill makes for the latest wedding of the strangest recurring marriage since Liz and Dick. The military, which is more accustomed to accepting the surrender of foreign governments, is increasingly accepting that of its own. The Left, which is unwilling to devolve any function from government, is only prevented from admitting it is needed by the one aspect of government it is loath to embrace.
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