Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pyrrhic "Victories"

Bowing to pressure from Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet and others, the U.S. Army will decline to appeal a court ruling that has the potential to curtail training activities at the Pinon Canyon Maneuver Site. It's a decision that could come back to haunt Colorado, and Colorado Springs especially, the next time a commission is asked to close bases or downsize America's military footprint.

The rancher-activists who brought this suit -- which deals not with the proposed expansion, but with operations at the existing site -- are gleefully waiving their cowboy hats and yelping "yippee." "We keep winning all the battles (with the Army) but it's the war over Pinon Canyon that we're worried about," one of their leaders told the Chieftain. But the "victories" will be Pyrrhic if this lawsuit and all the continued (at this point, manufactured) controversy over expansion destroys Fort Carson's value and standing as a training facility, making it vulnerable to downsizing or eventual disappearance.

It was one thing to fight expansion -- I actually had some sympathy for the ranchers back when this all began. But now the activists (who, like many of these types, become somewhat addicted to it) seem intent not just on blocking expansion but on curtailing training activities at the old site. That goes too far in my book. But rather than calling for some sort of cease-fire, or negotiating a compromise, supposed-leaders like Sen. Bennet chose to ride the anti-Army bandwagon, irresponsibly playing politics with the issue.

The Army may one day find more hospitable confines in which to train. And the activist-ranchers who turned the Army into the enemy will once again be able to use these supposedly-precious lands for chasing cattle. They can continue living out a 19th Century lifestyle in splendid isolation, and economic stagnation, unfettered by modern intrusions or inconveniences, like having to ready fighting men and women for combat on an expanding battlefield.

They'll have won every battle against the Army -- but Colorado as a whole, and the readiness of U.S. fighting forces, will be the ultimate casualties.

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