Thursday, May 26, 2005


Senator John Thune is fighting tooth and nail to keep Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota from closing. He's not alone in his fight, as Senators from a bevy of states including Maine, Connecticut, and Rhode Island are all rather upset at the recent decision by the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission to close military bases in their respective home states. And these Senators are certainly not alone in their fury, either. The military and civilian personnel that would be negatively affected by the base closures are also up in arms (pun not really intended). The folks who oppose these closures are from every walk of life, from United States Senators down to mechanics and janitors, but these individuals all share one thing, their motivation. No matter what they say, each one of them are in this fight because of self-interest.

The politicians want to get reelected, and that's really the bottom-line for why they are involved at all. They might say something loosely related to the "war on terror," or the "compromising of America's security," but that is all just cover. If this were the movie Liar Liar, then Thune and the rest of this roving band of base closure opponents would have to say that "We have to stand up tall to save these bases, because regardless of their relevance to America's security, if they close, I won't get reelected." Sorry if this seems coarse, but I am just trying to inject a little honesty into this debate.

The soldiers and civilian employees who work at the base are also driven by self-interest, and they aren't really trying to hide it, unlike our friends on Capitol Hill. I feel for these folks, really I do. The military personnel whose families have to be uprooted as they are moved to another base somewhere else in the country, that's certainly a shame and I wish it didn't have to happen. What's worse, are the civilian employees who won't be transferred, but instead are forced to find totally new employment, in places like South Dakota where the economy isn't exactly booming, its mooing.

But these self-centered, if somewhat justified, concerns aside, the Federal government cannot, and should not, be required to keep every base across the globe open ad infinitum just because people have jobs there. This is reality, and keeping bases open when they don't need to remain open isn't reality, it's communism. Government continuing to fund programs just because people rely on them for income isn't healthy. These bases no longer fit into the security paradigm, which shifted 180 degrees on September 11.

We are no longer fighting the Cold War, for which most of these bases were built in the first place. The War on Terror isn't going to be won because we keep a base in rural South Dakota open, and that's not the issue anyway, lets be frank. The issue is jobs, and in a market economy, sometimes people lose their jobs. Even federal employees.

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