Former Seattle Mariners’ starter, Ariel Miranda gave up the first homerun of the season in a 4-1 loss over the weekend. While we sit here locked in our homes, still waiting for our federal government to form a plan, baseball season started Sunday in Taiwan. Exhibition games start in a couple of weeks in South Korea and Japan.
A divide has opened in the developed world between nations in the US sphere of influence and those who look to China or Japan for leadership. Countries that are shedding their dependence on US influence are back to work, recovering from the pandemic, with little infection and few deaths. Meanwhile, Europe is reeling.
It’s no surprise that the US, under Trump’s leadership, is faring about as well as all his previous ventures, but why has the pandemic hit Europe so hard? They didn’t elect an idiot, they have excellent systems of universal health insurance, mostly-competent political leadership and a willingness to place science above ideology.
In the COVID-19 pandemic, Europeans are paying with their lives for their dependence on the United States. Thirty years after the end of the Cold War, Europe continues to lean on the US not only for its military security, but for leadership on a wide spectrum of issues that demand high levels of investment and sophisticated infrastructure. That model was premised on an assumption that US institutions would be consistently more capable and reliable than, say Portugal or France, and certainly more dependable than aid they might receive from Russia or China. That assumption was true until it wasn’t. Trump and COVID-19 may be the 1-2 punch that neutralizes the North Atlantic alliance.
If you’re making decisions for a European nation, who do you turn to for guidance on a complex matter like pandemic response? Where do you get the expert insight you need to decide whether to close off travel to a certain part of the world, ramp up health resources to prepare for a threat, or secure vital supplies? Each country, along with the EU itself, has access to highly qualified experts, but they depend on the US for the wide-ranging infrastructure needed to respond to a global crisis.
On matters that require massive scientific or infrastructure investment, Europe’s leaders still look to the US. There is no equivalent of the US CDC in Europe. Germany’s DZIF is the nearest thing they have, but it functions more like America’s National Science Foundation, a clearing house for research funding and organization. Germany’s DZIF enjoys an annual budget of about $50 million, compared to $11 billion for the CDC.
Which government has the budgetary, scientific, and logistical resources necessary to respond to a pandemic outbreak anywhere in the world? Until the Trump Era there was only one, the United States, and European governments had learned to bet their security on American power. That bet had paid off for generations.
Though scientists and researchers from all over the planet played vital roles, it was American leadership and, most importantly, American infrastructure and money, that (eventually) tamed the AIDS crisis and contained wave after wave of pandemic outbreaks in recent years, from SARS to Ebola.
The WHO acts a global mouthpiece for critical health information while maintaining a limited global response capability. Its annual budget is less than a quarter of America’s CDC, and half of that money comes from the US government or the Gates family. Nobody in the world is waiting for guidance from the WHO to make crucial decisions in a pandemic. Up until this disaster, the WHO was another arm of a global response infrastructure led by the United States. When leaders around the world were looking for guidance on pandemic response, they looked to the White House, until now.
As news emerged early this year of a pandemic in China, Pacific-rim countries didn’t wait for American leadership. Europe did. Excluding China, whose numbers are suspect, COVID-19 deaths across every Pacific rim country from South Korea to Singapore total less than 5% of Italy’s death toll total.
When do you initiate a lockdown? What should you do about limiting air and rail travel? Should schools stay open? Where should you look for help securing supplies or gaining access to testing infrastructure? No one is in a hurry to admit it, but European governments are used to looking to America’s CDC and the US government for answers to these kinds of questions. When Europe needed our leadership, our President was ignoring intelligence reports, lying about our planned response, and golfing.
Italy moved much faster than the US in responding to their outbreak, but just as in the US, their response was too little too late. Italy detected its first case on January 31, almost two weeks after the US. They shut down travel from China that same day, a step the US still hasn’t taken. Italy imposed a regional lockdown on February 23 three weeks before San Francisco took a similar measure. They locked down the whole country on March 8. All of these steps were ahead of any US guidance, and ahead of US responses, and still weeks too late to prevent a calamity. Without US leadership, which under any competent administration would have emerged by the second week in January, there was no comprehensive infrastructure for testing and tracing, the critical first steps in pandemic response initiated early by Pacific rim countries.
Taiwan has a population just a bit smaller than Texas, all packed onto a narrow island that could fit between Dallas and Houston. They detected their first COVID-19 case on January 21, just a day after the US. They’ve logged fewer than 400 total cases, with only 6 deaths. South Korea, hit hard initially thanks to the bizarre antics of a religious cult, now sees only a few dozen new cases a day and a handful of deaths.
With millions of people crammed into a tiny island, Singapore has had a total of 10 deaths. Hong Kong, four. Lockdowns there have been brief and limited. Economic life has mostly continued as normal. Throughout the crisis, you could go to a restaurant or market in Seoul or Tokyo with minimal disruption. Pacific rim countries which have shaken free of American leadership have barely been touched by this disaster. Their biggest ongoing threat is reinfection by travelers from those dysfunctional “shit-hole” countries in the US sphere of influence.
Italy and Spain are still seeing thousands of new cases and hundreds of deaths a day. Though a few European countries, like Germany, are weathering the storm with relatively few casualties, none have escaped the need for wide-ranging quarantines that have shut down economic activity.
There is an established playbook for pandemic response, a playbook developed over generations and refined by the American Centers for Disease Control. Governments around the globe faced no mysteries in their response to what should have been a routine, step-by-step response. What was missing in the west was leadership. Europe looked to the US for that leadership while developed nations in the Pacific ignored us. As many as 100,000 Europeans or more may die because Americans thought it might be cute to elect a racist TV star.
Among the casualties from this unnecessary disaster will be the myth of American leadership. While Asian countries start baseball season and ramp up their economies, America’s allies are piling bodies into trucks, converting ice rinks into makeshift morgues, and resorting to drive-through funerals. Our allies are unlikely to forget the price they paid for trusting us to lead the world.
Honestly, I would consider Europe breaking from the U.S. one of the very few potentially positive results of Donnie Dotard’s presidency. In my (admittedly limited) experience, most Europeans recognize at some level that their states are no longer on top of the world, and likely never will be again. They know that individual European states do not have the leverage necessary to negotiate with the U.S.A., China, India, the African Union, or Mercosur, nor do individual states have the firepower necessary to resist Russia and Turkey or control the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. Europe has been able to punt these dilemmas down the road by relying on the U.S.A.; should that reliance fail, the E.U. would have little choice but to tackle them. Should European faith in American leadership fail, I think even most nationalists will recognize that only the Union has the resources necessary to replace American firepower and infrastructure. Perhaps I’m naive, but I suspect that it could force the E.U. to finally become the counterweight that the U.S.A. so badly needs.
That could be the ultimate result. Europe does desperately need to consolidate and form a cohesive strong federal government. The United States did not really jell as a nation until following the Civil War. Unfortunately, that may not have been enough as now we may be on the verge of disintegration under Donnie Dotard. But somehow, I believe we will get through this stronger than ever, but there will be some trying times, as it always seems darkest just before the dawn.
That’s one potential outcome, though certainly not the most likely one. The most likely outcome is the one that’s unfolding before our eyes – dissolution. Europe needed more time to meld together an identity that individual Europeans could embrace. That hasn’t happened yet. If they are forced to shoulder the economic, political and personal burdens of building viable continent wide-institutions right now it probably won’y happen and the results will be dangerous. The North Atlantic alliance existed for a reason and it needs more time.
It’s been a while since Chris has remarked on the Path Not Taken in John McCain’s 2000 campaign, but that hasn’t stopped others from thinking about it too. A good read:
Much more of this and not only will the Atlantic Alliance be neutralized, but The United States of America perhaps will no longer exist. We already have two groups of states that are making their own plans regarding the pandemic – the Pacific States led by California and the New England States led by New York. IL will probably join with the New England States. The plans that they are developing are being coordinated. California is using its contacts in the Pacific Rim to buy PPE and is offering to share with other states. California’s Governor Newsom is seriously considering making a push for a Single Payer Health Care System. Such a plan came very close to passing the California legislature recently. He has proposed a $125 million dollar fund for undocumented immigrants. If California passes a single payer system, I expect Washington, Oregon, and Hawaii will quickly follow with the other blue states following soon thereafter. Perhaps after January most of the Great Lakes States will be there as well. Most likely a joint system will be established, despite the Constitutional prohibition against interstate compacts. All these trends are quickly accelerating and if Donnie Dotard is reelected, the momentum behind them will be quickly increase to the point that they are unstoppable. The quiet talk of succession would no longer be so quiet. One has to realize that the Pacific States in combination with the New England States, have a third of the population of the US and probably have well over 50%-60% of the GDP. When the Great Lakes States are added in the percentages would be much larger.
But this potential split is based on Donnie Dotard being reelected. I prefer to think that there will be a blue tsunami in November and some significant progressive movement will be made thereafter as was predicted in the “California is the Future Series” in Medium published in 2017 and authored by Peter Leyden and Ruy Tuxeiria. Link:
I would far rather that be the future than a future of several separate nation-states in the area presently referred to as The United States of America as envisioned in “Ecotopia”, “The Nine Nations of North America” by Joel Garreau or “American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America” by Colin Woodward. I am afraid that if Donnie Dotard is reelected the immediate forgoing will be the future. The world will be far worse off. Russia will act to dominate Europe and China will act to dominate the Western Pacific. The stage will be set for a series of wars in Europe and in the Western Pacific. Very possibly they could escalate to a global conflagration including the use of nuclear weapons or other dastardly weapons.
My left of center friends are complaining about the protests in Michigan, Ohio, and other areas where fat white people in red hats are gathering to yell at mostly empty buildings about opening up the economy.
Again, I’m trying to find empathy and compassion or even just a minor bit of problem-solving and critical thinking, but the thought I keep returning to is:
Good. Let them gather close together and scream their lungs out.
Then they won’t be around in November.
Aaron, answer me this question.
The small business loan program has burned through its 349 billion. It is empty. It is unknown when the powers that be aka White House reps and Congress will get together to hash out a new package, if they even do at all.
This is end of Month One of this situation
What is the economy, and the social fabric supported by that economy, going to look like at end of Month 2, and Month 3, if the status quo is maintained?
When people quite literally can’t get food and can’t pay their bills by the millions more than the millions today, what happens? What is the breaking point?
I stopped predicting things after 2016.
I focus on protecting my own. Yesterday I received that $1200 from the CARES Act and I put $600 of it into food banks in the two states I’ve lived and $600 into relief funds for the industry I work. All that matters right now is protecting the vulnerable.
I’ve been systematically reaching out to my networks and funneling the most useful information I find that directly relates to the aide and relief of the people who need it.
My boss and I worked together to funnel a percentage of all sales into international emergency health services.
And lastly I’ve keeping in touch with my most worried and most scared friends and family for support, and keeping in touch with my representatives so they know I’m still expecting some inkling of fucking leadership from them, and that they can’t depend on me if I can’t depend on them.
Stop being a screeching harpy and go help somebody. And if you actually are, then let’s talk about how that can be supported, hey?
One question, Chris. You state that trump has not shut down travel from China. I thought he did upon the recommendation of HHS Secretary Azar?
Nope. And all a Chinese citizen in Wuhan needed to do to evade the order was connect through Tokyo or Seoul. Smoke and mirrors. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/04/us/coronavirus-china-travel-restrictions.html
Wow. Thanks. More lies.
I am doing what I can to keep my head above water at the moment. But there is a limit to what I can do, and there are oh so many in far worse shape. I have a father that has rheumatoid arthritis and on immuno-suppressants. This virus WILL kill him. Not a high probability, but a certainty. He can’t go out at all. I do what I can for him, seeing him every day through a glass door, shopping for him, taking care of his dog.
So I am in this as deep as anyone. Now what about all the people who are worse off that will be at incredible risk from their “everyday” diseases if this thing continues to wreak havoc on the economy?
The tyrant killed who knows how many. Now the states are picking up the pieces, but I ask my question again: What will the situation look like in 2 more months if the status quo is maintained?
John Pavlovitch isn’t as direct (I agree with you), but his general message is the same.
Yet, I wonder how many people in the medical field will vote against trump in November?
I hate what we’ve become. Our country is now like an enormous toddler that aimlessly and gleefully topples down block structures without a clue on how to build them up again.
The MAGA-zombies are beyond hope and not worth trying to persuade. I can only hope that enough of the people who sat on the sidelines in 2016 are horrified enough to cast a vote this year.
As Rick Wilson said “Everything Trump Touches Dies”. Taking that to its logical conclusion is horrifying but has to be faced.
You need a verb here:
“ That assumption was true until it wasn’t. Trump and COVID-19 may be the 1-2 punch that the North Atlantic alliance.”
Breaks? Shatters? Pulverizes? Obliterates?