Small Wars Journal

Covid-19: A Blindside for National Defense and a Failure of International Diplomacy

Mon, 03/23/2020 - 7:03am

Covid-19: A Blindside for National Defense and a Failure of International Diplomacy

Jonathan Lancelot

For years, Hollywood has released movies about the outbreak of contagious diseases like the 1995 movie called Outbreak, and TV shows about a pathogen that causes the dead to come back alive like the show The Walking Dead. These film projects are the only references the general public has on pandemic and epidemic situations except what is taught in history and the biological sciences if one was fortunate enough to take any of those courses. Other than that, no generation on Earth currently has experienced any crisis event like the one we are living in today, just fantastic images from the imagination of screenwriters. This does not excuse the international community, economic institutions, and individual nation-state governments from being unprepared.

One could argue that placing the leadership of the international system under the microscope is not a fair manner of looking at our current situation. However, when humanity itself is facing a deadly virus that on the date of March 22, 2020, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 335,065 people have been confirmed as infected worldwide and 14,555 deaths. Today, the numbers are still going up, and the nations of Italy, Spain, and Germany are getting hit the hardest. Hospitals worldwide are understaffed and underequipped, and doctors and nurses all over the world are overstressed. Why? Politics.

If a political leader, Prime Minister, President, Senator, and Representative could have a long term plan in place for small wars against other human beings, even if it goes against the sensibilities of leadership in the military and diplomatic institutions, why are no cogent collective security policies regarding the defense from one of the most deadly enemies of all, the biological contagion, in effect? Any reasonable person with a decent grip on public policy and the needs of the public good would think that government, primarily the United States Government would have worked with medical equipment manufacturing companies, the American Hospital Association (AHA), The Center for Disease Control (CDC), and others to set up an emergency stockpile of ventilators, beds, ICU equipment, and other critical items for doctors and nurses in case of a significant pandemic event like the one we are living today. Right now, individual US states are competing for equipment when we are in a time where there should be no competition because innocent civilians and men and women in uniform lives are at stake. Again, the problem is politics.

I am not faulting diplomats for the massive failure of international diplomacy between nation-states in setting up mutual norms on how to coordinate their medical systems in case of a gigantic worldwide pandemic that could affect all of humanity. I am holding civilian leaders of these nation-states responsible for not having the vision to see the consequence of not innovating intermestic policies that would allow for cooperation between nation-states on the medical system level as a preventative of a worldwide catastrophe. What is the issue? Politics.

What is it about politics that prevents humanity from being proactive instead of reactive? Practitioners of political science have deceived themselves into thinking that politics is a science and can stand alone within the decision-making process. Nothing could be further from the truth. If one is a graduate from a military college (which I did for graduate school), one will have a practical and strategic understanding of politics. For example, one will not understand how politics and war are connected truly without reading the book On War by Carl Von Clausewitz as essential reading, and strategic policy and history is the bedrock of military strategy that has to embrace vision, readiness, preparedness, and proper execution. Conversely, political science departments of traditional civilian liberal arts colleges teach ideology, nationalism, and selective history without giving graduates the tools they need to survive in the market or have real solutions in a world that is extraordinarily complicated and violent. Military education deals with political realities through the lens of strategy; civilian training pushes political ideology with little science. Why? Politics.

What is a possible solution to the lessons we are learning now? First, reform political science education to mirror how military cadets are educated. Require civilian political science students to take STEM science courses like higher mathematics, computer science, cybersecurity, the medical sciences, and physics. Second, political science departments should develop a strategy-based education in politics and diplomacy instead of ideologically based teaching. Third, governments should learn from the Covid-19 crisis and place efforts into diplomatic relations that deal with human health and a standard set of norms that will allow healthcare professionals across the world to set up international networks for efficient communication and prioritization when the next pandemic happens. Lastly, the expansion of the Medicare system in the United States would serve as a tactical and practical defensive strategy and a safety net for those civilians whom our military protect every day. Otherwise, why have a Department of Defense at all if a small virus could take down our whole civilization? Politics.

About the Author(s)

Jonathan Lancelot is an independent Foreign and Cyber Policy Advisor at CyberDetente LLC, where Jonathan leads in consulting organizations on cybersecurity risk management, including advising on the geopolitical implications of cyberspace on US foreign policy and build cyber organizational systems. His research interests are in blockchain technology, Lex Cryptographica, and how it will affect governance in the future.

Jonathan graduated from Norwich University with a Master’s in Diplomacy with a sharp focus on cyber-diplomacy, and published the widely shared paper “Russia Today, Cyberterrorists Tomorrow: US Failure to Prepare Democracy for Cyberspace,” with is published on Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Journal of Digital Forensic, Security and Law, and a contributor at Small Wars Journal. Jonathan also is an experienced computer technician that was trained and certified by Apple engineers and worked at the US Senate and the Department of Defense.

Follow Jonathan on Twitter @lancelotpolitic.