9 August 2020   Leave a comment

In my lifetime, the US has suffered a number of major setbacks in its foreign and domestic affairs: The US defeat in Vietnam, the attacks on US territory on 11 September 2001, and the financial debacle of the Great Recession in 2008-09. In almost everyone of these setbacks, there were few who believed that the US’s position as a dominant power in world affairs was over. Most people were aware of the resiliency of American institutions and the underlying dynamism of its culture and economy. The US inability to get control of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, appears to be different. The Associated Press ran a story that seems to indicate that the prestige of the US may have suffered a setback from which it may never recover:

“Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who is leading a team seeking treatments for COVID-19, decried such behavior, as well as the country’s handling of the virus.

“’There’s no national strategy, no national leadership, and there’s no urging for the public to act in unison and carry out the measures together,’ he said. ‘That’s what it takes, and we have completely abandoned that as a nation.’

“When he gets on Zoom calls with counterparts from around the globe, ‘everyone cannot believe what they’re seeing in the U.S. and they cannot believe the words coming out of the leadership,’ he said.

“Amid the scorn from other countries, Trump national security adviser Robert O’Brien, newly recovered from a bout with the virus, gave an upbeat picture Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

“’We’re going to fight like heck. We’re working hard on vaccines. We’re working hard on testing machines that are portable and fast. … We’re working on therapeutics,’ he said. ‘I’m so impressed with our scientists and our doctors and our first responders and the folks who are attacking this disease, and God bless them all.’

“Many Europeans point proudly to their national health care systems that not only test but treat COVID-19 for free, unlike the American system, where the virus crisis has only exacerbated income and racial inequalities in obtaining health care.

“’The coronavirus has brutally stripped bare the vulnerability of a country that has been sliding for years,’ wrote Italian author Massimo Gaggi in his new book “Crack America” (Broken America), about U.S. problems that long predated COVID-19.”

It may be the case that states will no longer look to the US for leadership on any issue. Jose Ramos-Horta expressed clear contempt for US COVID policies in an op-ed in Newsweek:

“We are appalled and saddened to see rising infection rates in 48 U.S. states, Americans throwing tantrums when asked to wear a mask in a store, and American leaders acting with reckless disregard for American lives. We fear we may be witnessing a nation that so many of us admired and even venerated taking the final tumble off the pedestal of international leadership.

“After World War II, the United States invested in rebuilding Europe and Japan, creating new markets for its goods, ushering in an economic boom and building brand America. Today, it’s astonishing that America’s corporations and wealthy citizens are silent while America’s brand becomes a laughing stock. In exchange for tax breaks, wealthy Americans have kept quiet while the U.S. President ridiculed, denigrated and bullied America’s traditional friends and allies, started a trade war with China that American farmers and consumers paid for, and undermined the United Nations at a time of great need around the world and halted funding to the World Health Organization.

“Despite the pleas of hundreds of former and current heads of state, Nobel laureates and other international leaders to make the COVID-19 vaccines patent free and available to all (as was done with the Salk polio vaccine), the Republican leadership in the Senate has fought any bill that would rein in American drug companies’ ability to set exorbitant prices for COVID-19 vaccine. Although these vaccines are being developed with billions in taxpayer money, pharmaceutical companies are already bragging about windfall profits they stand to make by setting prices that would put the vaccine out of reach for the rest of us.

“The rest of the world sees this as the antithesis of leadership. We see an America willing to let us die to enrich already obscenely wealthy U.S. corporations. We see wealthy, entitled Americans abandoning America’s ideals, and behaving like the corrupt aristocracy and royalty the American Revolution and many subsequent revolutions were fought to upend.”

Whether any nation can step in an take up the role of global leader is an open question. But it may be the case that states have already decided that the US can no longer be trusted.

Posted August 9, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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