By Guy B. Roberts, Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Nuclear, Chemical Biological Defense Programs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed how people live and work around the world. Whether these changes are permanent or good or bad remains to be seen. But regional security and diplomacy are as relevant as ever even though they may require a mask to execute. While they always should have been, epidemics and pandemics are important national and global security concerns.
Given the focus now is understandably on responding to Covid-19, it is equally important that this crisis serves as a wake-up call with respect to inadequacies in preparedness and response that threaten not just tragedy on an unprecedented scale but the basic national, regional and global security. No part of the world can insulate itself from the consequences of these scourges.
Indeed, the USA, like almost every other country, was (and remains) unprepared to cope with a mass casualty bio event. Unlike Asian nations, the USA did not experience and thus did not learn from the SARS outbreak of 2003 nor heed President Bush’s 2005 warning to prepare the nation for a pandemic. Leaders at every level of government—federal, state, local—downplayed the threat until it was too late. The desperate circumstances forced nations to use the bluntest tools available: shutdown. and quarantine– the same tools used in the 1918 flu pandemic.
There are and will be many more lessons to be learned but I want to focus on what I consider the two most critical; namely the lack of preparedness and the importance of nations collaborating in fighting bio attacks such as the current pandemic.
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