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Pandemics are no a time for inward-looking nationalism

Written By: - Date published: 4:37 am, April 9th, 2020 - 41 comments
Categories: covid-19, health, Politics, United Nations - Tags: , , , , , ,

The word Pandemic means a disease that is prevalent throughout the world. In other words, a global problem, facing the entire human species who inhabit the earth. 

During such a horrible phenomenon, leadership is required. Leadership is about developing people and helping others reach their full potential. It’s about equipping others with the right tools and strategies not only to maximize the success of an organization but also the lives of individuals.

Donald Trump, “leader” of the so-called free world has demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of either of these concepts in his response to COVID-19. I’m not talking about his bizarre and unprofessional press briefings – these are just standard Trump Bluster. I’m not talking about Trump’s insistence on calling COVID-19 the Chinese Virus, a racist and entirely offensive comment. I’m not even talking about the number of COVID-19 cases in the US now surpassing the number in China due in no small part to an utterly negligent Federal Government led by Donald Trump. These are all appalling acts of stupidity in the face of a pandemic and grounds for impeachment. But no. What Trump has done today is far worse, and far more dangerous for the people of this planet.

Yesterday, Donald Trump came out attacking the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) response to COVID-19. Trump threatened to withhold US funding for this vital global governance body during the worlds worst pandemic in over a century. Why? Because they had failed to stroke his delicate ego. Because the WHO had warned that the US along with many other countries were not doing enough to combat the virus. And now when things are turning bad in the US, he is looking for other people to blame. 

Global Impact of the World Health Organization's 2018 Digital ...

The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) primary role is to direct international health within the United Nations’ system and to lead partners in global health responses. Threatening to cut the funding of this organisation during a pandemic is highly irresponsible and puts millions of lives at risk. 

Increasingly evidence is emerging that Trump was advised about the threat of COVID-19, yet failed to act appropriately. He was warned by top White House advisors back in January that COVID-19 had the potential to kill hundreds of thousands of Americans and derail the US economy. Now, these predictions are coming to pass. So what does Trump do? He says that the WHO blew it and didn’t respond fast enough. Chinese General Sun Tzu famously said an attack is the secret of defence. And Trump is truly on the defensive now.

Trump’s political career has been based on ‘post-truth’ emotive spin and dog-whistle politics that tap into peoples fears. As I’ve previously posted, he has been very successful in this. But there is no doubt that the man is a sociopath. And an extremely dangerous one. 

Trump claims that the WHO is China Centric. This claim is nonsense. COVID-19 originated in Wuhan province in China. As the United Nations organisation responsible for World Health, The World Health Organisation had a responsibility to work collaboratively with Chinese authorities to prevent the spread of the virus. That’s right, a global governance body has a responsibility to do whatever it has to do to prevent the spread of a deadly virus throughout the planet. They have done so, in very trying circumstances.

President Donald Trump Tweetstorm – The Saturday Edition – Deadline

Donald Trump: More focussed on beating the nationalist drum for his own electoral gains than stepping up as a leader during a global crisis. Many lives could needlessly be lost due to his failure as a leader. 

This is not to say the World Health Organisation doesn’t have its faults. It does. But you don’t improve the work of the WHO by slashing its funding during a pandemic. That is an incredibly irresponsible move that could cost many more lives. 

Trump has been quick to shut off international travel to China and later Europe. Yet Trump has done nothing about numerous US states that have not implemented a proper lockdown, despite COVID-19 now being rife in the US. Pandemics don’t care about national borders. These artificial lines in the sand that humans call countries are just that, human-made lines that virus don’t recognise or respect. 

Trump is focussed on the November US Presidential Election. His anti-Chinese, nationalist, America First rhetoric is his go-to response to keep his political base onside. He is placing his political ambition ahead of millions of lives both in the US and globally. Trump has placed electoral politics ahead of leadership that could save millions of lives.

He either doesn’t understand or has no interest in understanding how a pandemic really works and subsequently has failed miserably as a leader during this crisis. Tragically the actions of Trump, the US Federal Government and the numerous US States that have failed to follow WHO guidance, will cause many more lives to be needlessly be lost. 

41 comments on “Pandemics are no a time for inward-looking nationalism ”

  1. Forget now 1

    Trump has the concentration span (and social grace) of a fly on shit. Tomorrow he'll likely be ranting about illegal (thus poorly housed and resourced) immigrants higher death rates in NYC proving the need to deport them, or some other nonsense. With any luck, he'll quietly forget about defunding the WHO, and next week be claiming that he was the one who founded the organisation in the first place.

    Trump is not a leader, he is a parasite camouflaged as one. Though importantly, he is very good at what he does. Biden may be a lot of things, but inspirational is not one of them.

  2. Sabine 2

    who would have known, and her fucking emails.

  3. pat 3

    Trump is the disaster we expected him to be but he is not alone. The EU are struggling with both leadership and solidarity as well.


  4. RedLogix 4

    As the one person here who has consistently promoted the universal, global perspective I have to say how deeply disappointed I am in how WHO has handled COVID19. The facts are simple and undeniable.

    Pandemics don’t care about national borders. These artificial lines in the sand that humans call countries are just that, human-made lines that virus don’t recognise or respect.

    Up until Feb 28 Tedros was denying the need to close down global travel, the one single measure that could have stopped this damn thing in it's tracks. Instead he was bleating on about testing, when most nations were not in a position to do so at scale.

    Tedros then delayed calling this event a pandemic until well after it was blindly obvious that it was.

    On these two facts alone he stands condemned as an incompetent failure. The clear impression many, many people have is that this avowed marxist, with only modest professional credentials in the field of health, has put the political interests of China at the top of his list of priorities. At the very least no-one can have any confidence in his judgement; he has damaged a vital global institution at a critical moment and must go.

    This of course is no defense of the USA. Trump's administration is chaotic at best, and in an entrenched atmosphere of hyper-partisanship that dates back to at least Clinton's time, their capacity to respond to emergencies coherently is no longer there. They will pay a very high price for this.

    In the wider context it also speaks to the other theme that most people are missing; that the USA is no longer all that interested in propping up the global order as we know it. Trump is merely the end-point of a process that started with Clinton. Successive US Presidents have paid decreasing levels of attention on foreign policy, leaving the system increasingly rudderless and fragmented. Bush Jnr's version of foreign policy had only one point of focus … the aftermath of 9/11. Obama did little of use and Trump has brought a sledge hammer to what remains.

    This attack on WHO, deplorable as it is, is merely a dot point in a much larger process that seems to be gathering momentum.

    • McFlock 4.1

      Bit harsh on Clinton: a lot of his actions were a response to the inefficacy of global mechanisms to deal with the post-Cold War situation. So he went multilateral – e.g. NATO expansionism and resolutions to the Balkan wars. Multilateralism vs panlateralism, I guess. Same with trade deals.

      But I think that in many ways all the actions by the post-Bush snr presidents could be argued to have been done with the national interest as a consideration at least somewhere along the line, even if the political lenses meant they were actually harming the nation in the long run. Except the current guy.

      • RedLogix 4.1.1

        Yes I agree I'm being a bit glib on Clinton, his contribution was more than this.

        No US President can totally ignore global events, but in essence from Clinton onward they've been more reactionary than visionary. Besides to put it politely, Clinton was prone to 'distraction', he was great at immediate events, but lacked a plan.

        Bush Snr took a vision to the nation of what could be possible in the unique uni-polar world that arose when the Soviet Union collapsed. He openly discussed a New World Order, his personal goal being “a thousand points of light,” a community of free nations striving to better the human condition in ways heretofore unimaginable. Of course he got voted out. After decades of the Cold War the American people were over the rest of the world. This was the great lost opportunity that slipped by, and from then onward the US has become increasingly self-absorbed in a vicious cultural war.

        Clinton, Bush Jnr, Obama and now the Wrecker in Chief have steadily walked back from the implicit US security guarantee. Slowly but surely all the conditions that have made the post WW2 gravy train possible are grinding to a halt. The world is waking up to this and it will have consequences.

        • McFlock

          The NWO idea was killed by Somalia and the Balkans. Rwanda just exacerbated it.

          Particularly Somalia: the brief was to protect the food aid, and the yanks decided that meant pacifying the nation. Whoops.

          After that plan got torn up, they went to bulwarking NATO and expanding trade.

          • RedLogix

            Yup. Good examples of bad mis-steps along the way.

            the brief was to protect the food aid, and the yanks decided that meant pacifying the nation.

            Can you see it from the US perspective? They were trying to do the right thing and help deliver aid, but the locals were downright rude and disruptive about it. If the same scenario had played out in say New Orleans, there would have been zero problem with the US govt dealing to armed criminals hijacking aid.

            It’s a good example of the limits of a global order centred on a single nation, no matter how powerful can never have the moral authority to fully pursue outcomes to their logical end.

            • McFlock

              Nah that's a complete misreading of the situation. UN needed camp guards and convoy security. Instead they started snatching "warlords" in order to decapitate the rival factions.

              The people they snatched were not just mercenary adventurers, though, they were also local cultural leaders. And yanks being yanks, they viewed civilians as the threat and treated them like shit.

              It became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

              Funnily enough, I've recently been reading about Nordbat 2 in the Balkans, which was a bit of UNPROFOR that did it right. They stuck top the job of keeping roads open and keeping hospitals safe, but did it without bullshit and developed their own ROE without reference to politicians, but with the mission and law in mind. So they refused to cede control of a hospital even though outnumbered and without support, forced roadblocks open, and fired back when threatened or fired upon.

              That's all that the yanks were asked to do: provide a legitimate replacement for the "technical support" line item human rights orgs had at the time (why utes with machine guns on the back are still sometimes called "technicals" today).

              Instead they started with a beach landing and hovering helicopters over every other block.

              • RedLogix

                Oh FFS.

                UN needed camp guards and convoy security. Instead they started snatching "warlords" in order to decapitate the rival factions.

                And exactly why was this 'convoy security' needed?

                Because Somalia was an ungoverned shit hole where your precious fucking civilian 'rival factions' (with hearts of pure fucking gold) were snatching whatever they could.

                As I said … the locals were being rude and disruptive.

                And if the same thing was going down within the US borders, the local warlords criminals involved would be dealt to summarily. Essentially I’m agreeing with you; the same approach didn’t work so well in Somalia, primarily because the US lacked the political and moral authority to act in the same way.

                • McFlock

                  The USA has a functioning government. Somalia did not.

                  Somalia was in an anarchic situation. Cleaning that up was not the job of the US army. The mandate was to provide a secure environment for humanitarian aid. The yanks interpreted that as "further destabilise the nation and just be another party in the war, because that really worked in Lebanon".

                  A more narrow interpretation would be NORDBAT 2's approach of "don't let anyone fuck with the aid".

                  The proof is in the pudding. NORDBAT2 didn't end the war, but they kept the roads open and protected themselves and civilians. If all UNPROFOR had been run like that, rather than surrendering thousands of civilians to be massacred, maybe the massacres wouldn't have taken place.

                  • RedLogix

                    Jesus wept. If you're going to bitch at me even when I agree with you it's hard to think you're coming from a place of good faith.

                    Yeah sure the Yanks screwed up, they did their level best to get it wrong on any number of occasions. The USA is a democracy, the govt that set out to stop the Soviets in the 1940's was not the same one as got heavy handed in Somalia. Their lack of angelic perfection for all time doesn't undermine my broad argument one jot.

                    Read what I'm saying carefully and stop projecting. I'm emphatically NOT NOT NOT defending the USA. I'm describing what happened and what impact it has had. The post WW2 Cold War global order came with both good and bad consequences. It's important to understand both, because when the Yanks go home … and in this all the anti-US types here should be celebrating …. both the good AND the bad will go home with them.

                    Now if like most hard left types you've had a singular focus on all the bad things the US has done, you're in for a nasty surprise when the reality of a world without an implicit US security guarantee goes away as well.

                    And if you want to pretend this security doesn't exist, then I ask you to tell me why do you imagine the largest naval force in history was built to serve no useful purpose? One US supercarrier battle group may have more firepower than most of the rest of the world's navies combined … and they have 11 of them. Way in excess of what was needed to defend the North American continent, or even enforce the Monroe Doctrine. These guys could project serious impact anywhere in the world, a capacity only a handful of other nations can even remotely approach.

                    Did they build all of this capacity just for shits and giggles?

                    • McFlock

                      Well, "shits" being "superpower dick-measuring" and "giggles" being "military-industrial complex". But that doesn't mesh so well with your little speech from A Few Good men.

                      The US, through its own incompetence, causes as much (or more) insecurity than it prevents.

                      NWO was a workable idea, for almost anyone else. The yanks jumped the first hurdle ok, and got bases in Saudi Arabia to boot. Then they faceplanted the following three hurdles, and that was that for the NWO. No pax americana, and a few new enemies to meet in the early 21st century.

                    • RedLogix

                      Well, "shits" being "superpower dick-measuring" and "giggles" being "military-industrial complex".

                      Such an obdurate cynicism doesn't make for useful conversation. I've laid out my case in good faith and in detail. Sniping around the margins is tedious at best.

                    • McFlock

                      You keep going around in circles, arguing "security" then getting defensive when people point out that the absence of the "security" provided by the US also requires the absence of the instability or other harm that the US causes, then saying the US is a fact of life, and then back to arguing security.

                      But please keep calling me "hard left", I'm sure it gives one or two people here a fine old laugh.

                    • RedLogix

                      My argument is watertight. The essential pre-condition to prosperity is trade, and for trade to happen security is essential. Otherwise the local warlords/pirates/neighbouring states are apt to simply seize your goods or kidnap your services for their own benefit. This is the undeniable pattern of human history.

                      Empire was predicated on the ability to provide trade security. Period. There is no possible argument with this assertion; one only has to look at the relationship between the British Empire and the Royal Navy to see this in crystal detail. Every other empire in history develops a military to accomplish this essential function, I can think of no significant exceptions.

                      Now post WW2 what changed? Why did we no longer need British warships to provide trade security? And yet suddenly almost every nation on earth could reliably trade with every other and it all worked almost flawlessly … do you imagine the bloody fairies were making this possible?

                      Yes there were formal 'international agreements' in place, but they meant nothing unless enforceable. And there was only one entity remotely capable of enforcing trade route security globally … the US Navy. They never had to provide convoy escorts as anyone stupid enough to make a nuisance of themselves would know the consequences. Overwhelming superiority has it's merits … you rarely have to use it.

                      Consider the fact that the US had a supercarrier battle group permanently stationed in the Persian Gulf until 2015. No other nation could remotely have imposed security in what is historically the most dangerous part of the world. The Saudi's and Iranians loath each other viscerally; the Iranians want to restore their glory days of Persian Empire and roll over the Middle East, while the downright feudal Saudis know a mortal enemy when they see one. Not to mention the Shite/Sunni thing which drives it all. Just as soon as the Iranians think they've re-built sufficient military capacity they'll be rolling into Iraq and taking aim at Saudi.

                      Hell they've already taken potshots at each other … in any real conflict the oil installations will be the primary target. If the US Navy goes home, how the fuck do you imagine anyone else is going to provide protection to the supertankers passing through the Straits of Hormuz …. geography matters. And a lot more than we like to think.

                      If you think oil is cheap now, what happens when nobody can reliably get it out of the ME? Why do you think Saudi is in a price war with Russia and US shale oil? It’s to try and cement their pre-eminent position in the market and thereby ensure they have allies they can call on.

                      Edit: Also worth a read:


                    • joe90

                      Now post WW what changed?

                      Most of this is behind a paywall but the argument seems to be that it's more about the lack of hegemony.

                      Charles Kindleberger, one of the intellectual architects of the Marshall Plan, argued that the disastrous decade of the 1930s was a result of the United States' failure to provide global public goods after it had replaced Britain as the leading power. Today, as China’s power grows, will it make the same mistake?




                    • RedLogix


                      That first link scans really well. It makes a lot of sense and not only buttresses my argument here, but takes it a lot further. I haven't encountered Kindleberger before … thanks.

                      As US President-elect Donald Trump prepares his administration’s policy toward China, he should be wary of two major traps that history has set for him. The “Thucydides Trap,” cited by Chinese President Xi Jinping, refers to the warning by the ancient Greek historian that cataclysmic war can erupt if an established power (like the United States) becomes too fearful of a rising power (like China). But Trump also has to worry about the “Kindleberger Trap”: a China that seems too weak rather than too strong.

                      Charles Kindleberger, an intellectual architect of the Marshall Plan who later taught at MIT, argued that the disastrous decade of the 1930s was caused when the US replaced Britain as the largest global power but failed to take on Britain’s role in providing global public goods. The result was the collapse of the global system into depression, genocide, and world war. Today, as China’s power grows, will it help provide global public goods?

                      Interesting paradox. For a very long time I was convinced that a rising China represented the new imperial power with expansionary intent. Indeed listening to their rhetoric, one can easily come to this conclusion.

                      However looking at the realities paints a different picture. China has absolutely benefited from it's participation in the global trade order, it has gone from a third world basket case to the workshop of the world in 40 year. In this the Chinese people have accomplished much. But this is not necessarily a strong China.

                      Geography is against them, they cannot project a blue water navy beyond the First Island chain without encountering potentially hostile adversaries all the way from Taiwan to India. (Incidentally the Indians and Chinese have been periodically in conflict with each other for centuries). The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force is the navy the Chinese wished they had.

                      Their labour force is aging and becoming more expensive. Recently they've encountered shortages; their biggest asset, cheap labour, is going away.

                      As a direct result of the one child policy there is a real shortage of 30 year olds, the group that would generate the highest domestic consumption.

                      They are highly dependent on imported raw materials and energy, especially oil from the ME.

                      Their agricultural sector is barely able to feed their population and is also highly dependent on imported fertilisers and the like. Thin arid soils in the north give way to rugged land in the south, with much of the best land now urbanised.

                      The CCP is committed to a low trust, highly authoritarian surveillance society. This cannot have a good outcome; the Chinese people may place a higher weight on the communal than the West, but they aren’t mindless hive minds either.

                      How any of this will play out is impossible to predict, but the possibility of all the crisis’ exploding at once cannot be ruled out.

                    • McFlock

                      I reckon the ME nations would still be selling oil without the US interventionism. That's why they developed OPEC.

                      Especially as the current Iranian regime is the reaction to a US-supported (in part) coup d'etat bringing in a repressive regime that lasted 20 years. See how that works? You're arguing that the yanks are providing protection from the folks who protected themselves from the last people to whom the yanks provided protection.

                      It's not all bad: the UN was a damned good move. The yanks just never let it do its job, though. The network of trade deals is also a good idea, but they're not the only ones working on that.

                    • RedLogix

                      I reckon the ME nations would still be selling oil without the US interventionism.

                      Really? This is just a list of ME conflict since 1914. This left wing idea that every problem in that part of the world is a result of western imperial meddling is only fractionally true.

                      The ME has a long, long history of conflict, well before any western involvement. In particular the conflict between the Persians and Arabs is both deep seated and visceral.

                      In many ways the civil war in Syria can be seen as the opening gambit in the upcoming war between Saudi and Iran. If you think Iran has been hyper violent in its support for Assad, this is nothing compared to the covert Saudi/Wahabi backing for jihadist groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda whose record of medieval atrocities is a great match for Saudis feudal fundamentalism.

                      And if Syria is not obvious enough to you, consider the drone attacks on Saudi oil production just late last year. Again this wasn't done by the fairies.

                      If you imagine the ME to be an oasis of peaceful hippie good loving think again.

                  • McFlock

                    That list impresses me with how much peace US protection has given to the region.

                    • RedLogix

                      Yet here is the astonishing thing, for all of this conflict the global oil supply, that most vulnerable commodity, has mostly kept flowing to all nations. Little old NZ included.

                    • McFlock

                      Like diamonds and coltan and phosphate and copper from other war zones.

                    • RedLogix

                      The oil kept the world running … you can moralise about this all you like, but without it nothing would have been the same.

                      You sure as hell wouldn’t be here carping on about it.

                    • McFlock

                      So? West Saharan phosphate gets dumped on our farms at a price cheaper than equivalent alternatives.

                      Trade happens in and out of war zones. Bullets are expensive, and there's always someone willing to make a buck. Purest form of capitalism there is: laws and regulations sidelined, anything can be traded.

                    • RedLogix

                      Well done, you've derailed the original point right off the planet.

                      It’s been precisely the lack of any grand policy vision since GH Bush that has propelled the US into one foreign policy blunder after another. You carp at these failures, oblivious that you are essentially confirming my point. The US is slowly pulling back from the world and these mistakes are but a foretaste of what is to come.

                      It's my guess that within 2 -3 yrs, perhaps less, the absence of the US global security guarantee will play out vividly enough.

                    • McFlock

                      Oh please. The US "global security gurantee" was exactly the same security guarantee as every other global empire or local neighbourhood protection racket.

                      Globalisation is driven by technology, not US government doctrine. China has its Belt and Road, Russia has its own GPS satellites. Nobody wants to interrupt global trade. So we go back to Great Power diplomacy, rather than single-superpower diplomacy. Only now we have a UN and a multitude of other examples of global governmental cooperation.

        • joe90

          He openly discussed a New World Order, his personal goal being “a thousand points of light,” a community of free nations striving to better the human condition in ways heretofore unimaginable. Of course he got voted out.

          He was speechifying in both his nomination and inaugural addresses about community organisations, nothing more.

          This is America: the Knights of Columbus, the Grange, Hadassah, the Disabled American Veterans, the Order of Ahepa, the Business and Professional Women of America, the union hall, the Bible study group, LULAC {League of United Latin American Citizens}, Holy Name, a brilliant diversity spreads like stars, like a thousand points of light in a broad and peaceful sky.



    • Poission 4.2

      Up until Feb 28 Tedros was denying the need to close down global travel, the one single measure that could have stopped this damn thing in it's tracks. Instead he was bleating on about testing, when most nations were not in a position to do so at scale.

      The researchers who first called the alarm on CV were consistently critical of WHO and their recommendations.

      • RedLogix 4.2.1

        And all through Feb the very measured Dr John Campbell was constantly lamenting Tedros's inexplicable obstinacy.

        The damage this man has done to the idea of global scale governance is immense … I'm bloody furious about it.

        • KJT

          Imagine. "Global scale Governance" and being forced to follow the US, policy, for "the good of the Global economy".

          I couldn't imagine anything, worse!

          • RedLogix

            No you can't. You've consistently demonstrated a remarkable lack of imagination.

            If you had bothered to actually read anything I've said on the topic, as opposed to mere projecting, you would have noticed me insisting that the current form of 'great power' dominated global governance is fatally flawed and cannot last.

            Yes it has brought us great benefits (and this should indicate to us the potential of the globalisation if we did it properly), but it never meant the US-centric post-WW2 system was ever going to be sustainable. Inevitably the internal contradictions would mean it would come to an end; in this case the American people lost interest in propping up a system they were not really benefiting from. Hence Trump and MAGA … the great decoupling.

            An authentic global system shares most of the same characteristics of a successful nation state, universal authority, devolution of power, democratic accountability, rule of law and independent legal and media institutions to name a few.

            Yet there is only one thing worse than bad government and that is no government. The same is true at the global level, the US system has been a defacto stand in for the real thing since WW2, but now it is going away. The absence will become acutely obvious very soon.

  5. Macro 5

    But what did Obama ever do to stop this?

  6. Amakiwi 6

    If Trump loses the election and is forced out of office, he will spend the rest of his life in court rooms and possibly in jail.

    A federal pardon will not protect from being prosecuted by states on numerous other charges.

    He is a cornered animal fighting for his life. Very dangerous.

  7. weka 7

    Nick, if you're reading comments, I've fixed the image sizes in the post. The Trump photo in particular was way oversized. The system does that now sometimes. The fix is to open Visual mode editor and drag the corners to adjust the photo inwards a bit (this seems to trigger the system to adjust it to the right size). I also edited the photos and selected Centre.

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