Imagine if all the U.S. combat fatalities suffered in the Korean, Vietnam and recent Middle Eastern wars combined were inflicted upon us by an adversary in just four months — then add 10,000 deaths more. That would be roughly the number of American deaths, to date, from COVID-19. Despite having created the world’s most powerful and technologically advanced armed forces — and spending trillions of dollars in the effort — America is reeling. From a public health perspective, more than 100,000 deaths in four months is a very bad virus; from a national security perspective, it’s an unqualified disaster.
The failure of the Trump administration to even participate, let alone take the lead, in global efforts to devise a coordinated response to the most significant global health challenge in a century has made it clear to other nations that they cannot depend on U.S. leadership in a crisis. It will have lasting consequences for America’s role in world affairs.
Rather than using the international institutions it created to help manage and prevent crises, the United States now is actively undermining organizations such as the World Health Organization. The United Nations system, which otherwise might help mediate and moderate relations among states, particularly the great powers, instead has been converted to a partisan punching bag.
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