Commentary by Lee Cohen
Reading the apocalyptic headlines concerning coronavirus, one feels like we are staring into the abyss. At a time of crisis like this, we need to trust those we have put in authority, scientific experts in the field, and take encouragement from those who guided the public through some of history’s most difficult public calamities and emerged to better days.
Without question, for the USA, the world’s superpower in the 21st century, it is hard to come to terms with. It is certainly going to get worse before it gets better, and there will be human as well as economic loss. But there is wisdom to be gained as it should serve as a wake-up call to our priorities. It should also serve as a lesson against the kind of irresponsible behavior and purposefully distracting actions exhibited just last month by Democrats, desperate to remove a president who had committed no crimes, simply because they hate him.
But even in our times, there is no magic pill or AI solution to coronavirus. Our entitled, instant gratification-demanding society should consider that humanity has pulled through millennia of similar — and far more serious — catastrophes.
This is the time to put our faith in our leaders — President Donald Trump and his advisers — who are doing far more than the public realize behind the scenes. Our leadership are being briefed by the best minds in virology and pandemics.
Each nation has a different approach based upon its leaders’ judgment. The UK is advocating self-isolation, Italy has effectively shut down. Trump’s approach of barring entry of flights from some of the hardest-hit regions seems an enlightened approach. But there is no gold standard as every national demographic, geography, and circumstance is unique.
The guidance of some of science’s disease thought leaders is sober but encouraging. Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University has indicated, “The one thing we really don’t need is mass hysteria. Eighty percent of people have such minor symptoms, they don’t actually require any medical care at all. The 20 percent who do feel quite ill need to be evaluated, and some of them will require hospitalization and some of them will require intensive care.”
Of course, his enemies have tried in this public health crisis, like in everything, to damage Trump. Three months ago, during the first whispers of this respiratory virus, Trump jumped into action imposing travel restriction on China, the place of origin of COVID-19. Now, with cases exponentially multiplying in Italy and elsewhere in Europe, Trump has rightfully imposed a travel ban on the European Union which has an open borders policy among its member states. Indeed, Trump’s actions have been far more aggressive than even those of our closest allies.
Far from showing concern for the public interest Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer and Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders, the Democrats leaders and aspiring leaders, have only politicized the health emergency and deliberately stirred up panic. They will forever be remembered as divisive partisans whose actions during a crisis were damaging to the public good.
For many, the coronavirus situation creates anxieties of vulnerability never before experienced in our lives since September 11. Many younger Americans do not have even this reference point. That is the toll of living in times of relative peace and stability with ever-increasing technological and medical advancements that have successfully addressed many of the most feared threats to health and mortality.
Outstanding leadership like that exhibited by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher kept at bay many of the world’s evils in their times, and Trump is doing his part to successfully address our vulnerabilities including the current threat from coronavirus.
In the last century, one of the best examples of resilience from which we can feel inspiration was Great Britain during Churchill’s Darkest Hour in 1940 when Britain stood alone against all odds, and eventually emerged battered, but triumphant.
Even Churchill himself did not know how the outcome of the Battle of Britain, after the fall of France and other European powers, would play out, but he did know there would be sacrifice. Britons were divided and fearful and the great bulldog was able to rally and encourage them against all odds by appealing to their heads and their hearts. While coronavirus does not pose an existential threat to mankind of this magnitude, it should act as an example to humble and encourage us to be resilient, to persevere and “Never surrender.”
Lee Cohen is a fellow of the Danube Institute. He was an adviser on Europe to the U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and founded the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.