Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci speaks during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House, Friday, March 20, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Anyone who has ever been involved in the planning and execution of military operations knows that getting in and accomplishing the mission is the easy part. The real skill is required in getting out with your butt pretty much intact. In my view, we are at the stage in this crisis where we’ve done about all we can do. Tests are being manufactured and distributed. Health care supplies are being manufactured according to the diktat of the federal government. Vaccines are in clinical trials. Treatments are in clinical trials. Parts of the nation are under what amounts to martial law, and the rest is cowering behind its doors. Businesses are going bankrupt. Shelves are being emptied. I just had the delivery date on an Amazon item slip from “Two days” to mid-April. The question before us is ‘what now?’ Have we done all the damage we can do? Should we try to do more? Or do we try to get the nation back to normal?
At some point in the next week to ten days, the nation either gets off the sofa and back to work or our economy craters. That’s a fact. No amount of stimulus money is going to work if there is nothing left to stimulate. Big business will be fine but the start-ups and the smaller operations that have provided unprecedented economic growth and opportunity for Americans, and under President Trump the major beneficiaries have been minorities who will be disproportionately slammed by an economic collapse, are simply not going to come back.
The major problem is that this is being treated as though it were a medical emergency when it is actually a national defense emergency and a political crisis. To be clear, this is a medical crisis in the same way that a thermonuclear detonation is an environmental crisis. Yes, it is, but it is much, much more.
Doctors, who are largely morons outside their narrow scope of expertise, have insinuated themselves into the economic and political life of the nation in a way that is not useful or helpful. When Dr. Anthony Fauci says, “I think we should really be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting,” that’s easy for him to say because he has no skin in the game. At the end of the day he has a mid-six-figure income that is insulated from the vagaries of the US economy by Congressional appropriations. He has a seven- or eight-figure book advance waiting in the wings for his memoirs when he retires. If he ‘overreacts’ and unemployment shoots to 30% and stays there for five years and the Dow Jones drops by 70%, he can shrug and say, ‘meh, yeah I was wrong, but I had to be safe.” Most of his countrymen do not have that luxury.
Back to the military analogy, in other words, we’re on the objective, we’re accomplishing the mission, and it doesn’t look like anyone has given any thought at all to how we extract ourselves from this situation and a lot of people don’t even think that is important. Looking at the statements by medical authorities and those by several governors in Blue states, I’m not even sure there is a consensus opinion that this ever has to end because the unrestrained exercise of power is sort of like meth with an oxy chaser to leftwing politicians and a lot of doctors. To extend the military metaphor further, it is as though the plan for the ill-fated Iranian hostage rescue attempt, aka Desert One or OPERATION Eagle Claw, was to grab the hostages, hunker down, kill every Iranian on the face of the earth and then walk back to America.
The fact of the matter is that no matter how long we shelter-in-place and engage in ‘social distancing,’ Wuhan virus is a part of our ecosystem. Like the poor, it is always going to be with us. Because we’ve taken the approach of trying to avoid infection by anyone, never mind that something on the order of 90% of everyone who gets the virus experiences either no symptoms or very minor ones, we will emerge from this calamity with zero herd immunity. (As an aside, we were stampeded into this by a study based on untested and unproven assumptions about virulence and lethality but the number of deaths it projected were so monstrously large that no politician could afford to call bullsh** on it and remain employed.) All that we’ve done is guarantee that in November we will go back through this again as the virus begins spreading again as humans start to spend more time indoors.
There are no silver bullets. The track record of creating vaccines for viruses of this type is not particularly great. The common cold has resisted all attempts. The flu vaccine changes annually. AIDS has resisted the equivalent of a Manhattan Project for several decades. If one happens, be thankful, but don’t use it as a planning assumption. Treatments are great, but, if you look at media reports, no one is talking about patients who are getting well. In fact, those numbers don’t even seem to be accurately tracked. The emphasis is going to be on ‘new cases.’
If there are no medical silver bullets, there are definitely no political ones. Any politician who ratchets down the fear is going to be decried as some kind of science denier and will be blamed for individual deaths…unless he is Andrew Cuomo or Gavin Newsome. So the politics that led us here inevitably lead us back to shut-down/social-distancing/shelter-in-place when Wuhan flares up again later in the year…and again next spring.
To paraphrase Georges Clemenceau’s aphorism, wWar is too important to be left to the generals,” this epidemic is too important to be delegated to medical professionals. We are at the point of cost-benefit analysis. When does doing what we are doing begin causing more damage than Wuhan virus? That call can be made based on medical advice but it is the quintessential political decision. And it is a decision that will require courage on the part of the president to make. At some point these restrictions have to give way. When they do, Wuhan will appear again. And, surely and night follows day, blame will descend on someone’s head.
There is no doubt that the US has undergone a sea change in the couple of months since Wuhan virus first arrived in the country on a flight from China. We’ve gone from a confident nation with a roaring economy to a fearful one, one that is cowering, sheltering in place, either voluntarily or because governors have used the crisis to try to control the day-to-day minutiae of peoples, and an economy that looks as though the Green New Deal was already in effect. There have been some glimmers of hope in expedited clinical trials for vaccines and treatments and testing equipment fielded in record time, but I think this period has been characterized by a conscienceless media deliberately stoking a pandemic to attempt to damage a president they loathe. The downside of that is that panic knows no party, so once the panic sets in, like Indians using a prairie fire to drive buffalo over a bluff, there is no way to actually stop the herd…unless elected leaders take that leap of faith to stand up and be counted knowing that they may very well be trampled by the stampede. The question for the nation is is there anyone out there willing to go first?