16 May 2020   2 comments

The Guardian is a reliably lefty British newspaper and it is one of the few newspapers in the world that has earned a high level of respect despite its clear ideological bias. It has published an essay penned by a number of its reporters who canvassed public opinion from a wider variety of global sources. Its conclusion is that there is a substantial number of people abroad who have been discouraged by the US handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to a sharp decline in respect for the US as a global leader.

“The Trump administration has repeatedly claimed that the US is ‘leading the world’ with its response to the pandemic, but it does not seem to be going in any direction the world wants to follow.

“Across Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America, views of the US handling of the coronavirus crisis are uniformly negative and range from horror through derision to sympathy. Donald Trump’s musings from the White House briefing room, particularly his thoughts on injecting disinfectant, have drawn the attention of the planet.

“’Over more than two centuries, the United States has stirred a very wide range of feelings in the rest of the world: love and hatred, fear and hope, envy and contempt, awe and anger,’ the columnist Fintan O’Toole wrote in the Irish Times. ‘But there is one emotion that has never been directed towards the US until now: pity.’

“The US has emerged as a global hotspot for the pandemic, a giant petri dish for the Sars-CoV-2 virus. As the death toll rises, Trump’s claims to global leadership have became more far-fetched. He told Republicans last week that he had had a round of phone calls with Angela Merkel, Shinzo Abe and other unnamed world leaders and insisted ‘so many of them, almost all of them, I would say all of them’ believe the US is leading the way.

“None of the leaders he mentioned has said anything to suggest that was true. At each milestone of the crisis, European leaders have been taken aback by Trump’s lack of consultation with them – when he suspended travel to the US from Europe on 12 March without warning Brussels, for example. A week later, politicians in Berlin accused Trump of an ‘unfriendly act’ for offering ‘large sums of money’ to get a German company developing a vaccine to move its research wing to the US.

Perhaps the clearest indication of the loss of respect can be found in an editorial published in the highly respected British medical journal, The Lancet, a publication not known for a political bias. The editorial argues that:

“In the decades following its founding in 1946, the CDC became a national pillar of public health and globally respected. It trained cadres of applied epidemiologists to be deployed in the USA and abroad. CDC scientists have helped to discover new viruses and develop accurate tests for them. CDC support was instrumental in helping WHO to eradicate smallpox. However, funding to the CDC for a long time has been subject to conservative politics that have increasingly eroded the agency’s ability to mount effective, evidence-based public health responses….

“…The USA is still nowhere near able to provide the basic surveillance or laboratory testing infrastructure needed to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.

“But punishing the agency by marginalising and hobbling it is not the solution. The Administration is obsessed with magic bullets—vaccines, new medicines, or a hope that the virus will simply disappear. But only a steadfast reliance on basic public health principles, like test, trace, and isolate, will see the emergency brought to an end, and this requires an effective national public health agency. The CDC needs a director who can provide leadership without the threat of being silenced and who has the technical capacity to lead today’s complicated effort.”

It is instructive to compare the US with other countries where the COVID-19 cases are falling, steady, and rising. The US does not compare favorably with other rich countries.

Falling Number of Cases

Steady Number of Cases

Rising Number of Cases

As of 14 May, the US had 87,638 recorded deaths, out of a worldwide total of 310,326 deaths, or 28% of the total. These numbers are only a rough guide since I suspect that there are serious undercounts of deaths attributed to COVID-19. Many deaths are recorded as caused by pneumonia and heart attacks, complications stemming from the coronavirus. But the US only accounts for 4.25% of the global population. Its record responding to COVID-19 appears to be dismal.

Posted May 16, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

2 responses to “16 May 2020

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  1. Reminds me of the “World Politics” final paper during freshman year — whether the US is still a global leader? I would definitely have more things to say now.

    PS: Do we still have the same topic now, Professor?


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