Coronavirus rattles America's national security priesthood

Universities and other scientific research institutions are already there Intensification of Find out more about the corona virus and how to stop it from spreading. Much of the future public and private funding for global health studies is likely to go there.

In Washington, some think tank leaders expect donors to be more interested in global health issues in the future, just as donors opened the cones for the investigation of terrorism after 9/11. The question may be whether to start new programs or improve existing ones.

Richard Fontaine, CEO of the Center for New American Security, noted that the outbreak highlighted the fact that many foreign and national security issues are closely related.

“The United States tends to have some sort of major event and then believe that they have slept through history and focused on the wrong things. They want to give up everything that they previously focused on and only focus on it Focus thing, “he said. “The reality is that it’s never just about one topic.”

For example, the coronavirus crisis has led to calls for loose nuclear sanctions against Iran, which is suffering from a particularly devastating local outbreak. It’s also a tense relationship between two of the world’s leading powers – the United States and China – with downstream ramifications for everything from the iPhone supply chain to collaborating on a nuclear deal with North Korea.

Fontaine said his institution would likely find ways to integrate the pandemic problem into issues such as energy and security that it is already addressing.

James Carafano, a senior official from the Conservative Heritage Foundation, generally agreed, “I’m sure everyone will do a COVID-19 autopsy,” he said. However, he added that a big unknown is how much the virus will harm the economy and how donors are willing to donate.

It is also difficult to ensure sustainable government funding. That means dealing with lawmakers who tend to pay more attention to defense lobbyists. The latter can promise high-profile results from US investments, such as F-35 fighter jets, which cost $ 80 million everyone. Compare that to manufacturers of lesser known medical devices like ventilators that costs Tens of thousands of dollars.

“Members of Congress have factories in their states and districts that make these weapons. There aren’t many Congress members who can say, “My state will be the preeminent producer of N95 masks,” said Julie Smith, a former Obama government official who now works for the German Marshall Fund.

The virus also provides rhetorical ammunition for groups that have long argued – usually with little traction – that the US spends far too much on weapons of war and far from enough on less obvious means of defense. Trump has certainly made his priorities clear in his proposed budgets.

The one he recently set for fiscal 2021 includes an 18 percent increase in fiscal spending National Nuclear Safety Authorityto $ 19.8 billion; Much of this relates to the maintenance of the U.S. nuclear weapons supply. In the same budgetThe White House proposed that the funds for disease control and prevention centers be cut by more than $ 1 billion.

In one pillar Arms Control Association’s Daryl Kimball last week complained that the US “spends tens of billions of taxpayer money to maintain a massive nuclear arsenal that can destroy the planet many times over,” even though there is insufficient protective equipment for healthcare workers Fight the virus. (Kimball told POLITICO, however, that the money spent on mining nuclear arsenals worldwide continues to be vital since a nuclear war should take place that will no doubt have global environmental and health implications.)

Even before the corona virus pandemic, there was a growing movement within the United States’ foreign policy establishment, arguing that it was time to turn away from the terrorist “Eternal Wars” that defined the past two decades and exhausted the American public. And the coronavirus crisis should accelerate that, even if Congress and the presidency haven’t caught up yet.

Ben Rhodes, a former senior advisor to President Barack Obama, said that Americans in positions of power all too often viewed global health as a charity or development problem limited to underdeveloped regions of the world. It is key to define the issue as one of the United States’ national security, he said.

Rhodes said another way to argue the case is to point out that additional spending on basic technology, science and innovation to fight pandemics will strengthen the United States on other fronts, including growing competition with China in areas that range from artificial intelligence to cyber security.

“They had the Cold War paradigm, then the post-September 11 terrorist paradigm, and now we have a defense budget that basically involves a few wars against Iranian opponents,” he said. “What will actually be a threat? Pandemics, cyber, information wars and climate change.”

Global health security has attracted more US attention In the past few decades, the mobility of goods and people has increased and the spread of diseases has become more likely – and not only during the Obama years. The HIV / AIDS epidemic broke out during the George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton years. Clinton also looked at an outbreak of the West Nile virus in the United States.

Even George W. Bush, best known for his response to September 11 and his subsequent invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, made pandemic preparation a priority. he required A plan after reading a book about the 1918 influenza outbreak that killed 675,000 people in the United States and tens of millions of people worldwide. During Bush’s tenure, the world was infected by the SARS virus and the United States experienced anthrax attacks.

Obama, who won the presidency in part by ranting against “stupid” wars like the one in Iraq, tried to divert the focus of US foreign policy from terrorism and the Middle East. He insisted that terrorist groups “are not an existential threat to our nation and we cannot make the mistake of raising them as if they were doing it”; He pushed for a “linchpin to Asia” that shifted military and diplomatic resources to tackle China’s rise.

Outbreaks of H1N1 influenza, Zika, Ebola and the mosquito-borne Chikungunya virus impressed Obama and his team on the growing dangers that an illness could pose to global stability. He urged more international cooperation and invested resources in preparing the pandemic. He also paid close attention to climate change, including the call for adoption of the Paris International Climate Agreement.

Obama’s success was limited. The United States still had thousands of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan at the time of its departure. The Pentagon still had the lion’s share of federal budgets. And when Trump took over, he reaffirmed the U.S. focus on terrorism and rejected many Obama priorities, including by deciding to terminate the Paris climate deal.

Trump hasn’t completely ignored pandemics – his team revealed one Biodefense strategy But he has repeatedly tried to cut funds for major outbreak-related institutions, such as the CDC and the United States Agency for International Development, while putting the White House’s pandemic prevention department under the WMD Office – One move Obama veterans say they have betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of the threat.

The coronavirus crisis is expected to last for months and impact global health infrastructure and the economy for years to come. However, some former U.S. officials are looking ahead and are calling for the creation of a 9/11 Commission body to review the US response.

Among them is Tom Bossert, Trump’s former homeland security advisor. He told POLITICO that “an in-depth evaluation should be a priority” but “it should start later” as the crisis continues.

Morrison from the Center for Strategic and International Studies said such a panel could help raise public awareness of the need to remain vigilant about infectious diseases. However, it is difficult, he admitted, because it “prepares for a hypothesis”.

Amir Afkhami, a former U.S. State Department adviser, said it was important that US officials think “transnationally” when planning future outbreaks. Afkhami, a psychiatrist who wrote a book on how cholera outbreaks affected the development of Iran, adding that the US government needs to adjust its personnel decisions to better preserve its “intellectual technical memory.”

“Our system, whether at State or USAID, is designed to move people through different desks, and leadership often changes because of the different administrations that come to power,” he said. “The problem is that effective global health measures require this technical memory and the ability to plan for the long term.”

Afkhami sees potential silver lining in the coronavirus crisis – he hopes, for example, that this will spur the United States to modernize its vaccine production system and better implement measures to identify outbreaks faster.

However, it is an open question how long the public would like to think about the topic.

“I am a student of the history of the pandemics,” said Afkhami. “One thing that became clear to me is that people want to forget and forget, unless there is an immediate recurring threat because it is a traumatic experience. There is almost a social need to forget.”

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