Military readiness takes precedence over environment

By Freedom Newspapers

Nearly everywhere the U.S. military trains, it now finds itself fending off flanking attacks from an enemy within. These environmental extremists say they are concerned about the impacts training activities have on plants and animals, but they also undoubtedly relish the opportunity to champion two liberal causes at once, by undermining the military’s ability to prepare for war.

Rare is the military facility or activity that isn’t under a green siege of some sort, but for a few recent examples let’s turn toward Hawaii.

On Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overruled a lower court and blocked the Army from basing a 3,800-soldier Stryker brigade on the islands. Two of three judges on the panel ruled that the Army “violated environmental laws by not properly considering all alternatives,” The Associated Press reported, “including basing the new brigade someplace other than Hawaii.”

The court effectively told the Army to look elsewhere. But if “elsewhere” was a strategically suitable option, we’re sure the Pentagon would have done so. This Stryker brigade, which is lighter and more mobile than its heavily armored counterparts, is part of a rapid deployment force for the Pacific Rim region. Thus, it makes perfect sense to base it in Hawaii.

Judge William Fletcher, writing for the majority, said the Army failed to adequately answer the question, “Why Hawaii?” But why not Hawaii, if the Army’s intent is to have forces positioned closer to potential flashpoints in the region? We don’t expect federal judges to be military tacticians, but can’t we expect that they’ll have a little common sense — or at least enough humility to leave military deployment decisions to the professionals?

Earthjustice — whose mission is to gum up the federal court system, arguing cases on behalf of the lunatic fringe — denies it is anti-military. Its leaders say they just want the Army to abide by the National Environmental Policy Act, which requires exhaustive study and paralysis-inducing analysis before a federal agency can change a light bulb. Blame the judges if you choose, but even sensible jurists are stuck enforcing unworkable laws. NEPA is desperately in need of an overhaul — such idiotic rulings prove it.

The Army is weighing its options, but yet another legal appeal isn’t the answer. Congress must act to ensure that America’s military posture and readiness isn’t further jeopardized by those who think protecting tree snails is more important than safeguarding national security.

The Navy also has seen its mission impaired in Hawaii, by environmentalists trying to curtail the use of certain sonars they say harm whales and dolphins, in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In July, greens attempted to force a halt to the use of the sonar during a major training exercise with Pacific Rim allies. A compromise was worked out that allowed the exercises to go on, but the push continues to ban the use of this critically important technology.

Protecting the environment is a worthy goal, within reason. But maintaining military readiness is more important, when push comes to shove. Not only the effectiveness but the safety of Navy personnel will be at risk if this nutty attempt to stop the use of sonar isn’t nipped in the bud. We can’t trust federal judges to do this — after all, the Marine Mammal Protection Act does make it illegal to harm or even “harass” a whale or a dolphin. It’s time for Congress to amend or re-write applicable laws to ensure that national security comes first.