The Great Pandemic Awakening:
How the Coronavirus Epidemic Should Reorder National Priorities
Historians may record the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 as a turning point in the ordering of priorities of the world’s nations. The stark reality of a global epidemic that sickens millions and kills tens of thousands may jolt the people of all nations into awakening to the difference between real and imaginary threats to their safety. This may lead to a long-overdue retreat from militarism and xenophobia, social maladies that have caused the squandering of vast resources better applied to legitimate human needs.
Ever since the invention of nuclear weapons at the end of WWII, large-scale warfare between advanced nations has been a political impossibility. The response to any large conventional attack would entail the use of devastating nuclear weapons in an exchange that could culminate in a global catastrophe. No regime could survive, politically or physically, such an outcome. Nevertheless, most large nations have persisted in building up enormously costly military establishments in anticipation of a fantasy of large-scale conventional warfare. This fantasy presumes that combatants would limit their hostilities to bloody conventional warfare and never resort to their most powerful weaponry. Post WWII History has repeatedly proven that nuclear-armed nations will not fight large conventional wars, but the irrational preparations for such fighting persist.
Although nuclear weapons have rendered large-scale conventional war infeasible, they have also become the object of irrational expenditure. Ill-founded theories of nuclear war strategy have resulted in grossly excessive spending on weapons that can never be used. The pernicious phenomenon of an arms race, once limited to competitive accumulation of guns, tanks, planes, and ships has taken hold in the development and stockpiling of nuclear weapons. Perversely, the more nuclear weapons are designed and deployed, the less secure the world becomes. Not content with devising ever more deadly and accurate offensive nuclear weapons, major nations are expending huge sums on developing and deploying missile defense systems, a futile undertaking that continues because of an irrational belief that enough spending can overcome intractable technical problems.
How much spending for military fantasies are we talking about in in the United States?
The current annual allocation in the US government budget for all defense-related expenditures is over one trillion dollars. This is over half of the discretionary budget. The cost of a single F35 jet fighter ($110 million) could buy 2,200 hospital ventilators, desperately needed in the Coronavirus pandemic. By comparison, the US government’s discretionary spending on Federal health institutions for the same period amounted to about $90 billion, a tenth of what is spent for “national security.” In short, the US is spending 10 times more to defend against imaginary threats than it is to contend with real threats to public safety.
Consider the clear and present danger of COVID-19. There is nothing imaginary or speculative about the mounting toll of this pandemic virus. Apart from the terrible spread of infections and fatalities, the economic damage inflicted on the world is staggering, leading some economists to predict a worldwide depression. Current projections anticipate over 100,000 fatalities in the US resulting from COVID-19. This is more than all US deaths caused by military action since WWII. Yet because of grossly misallocated resources, many of these pandemic victims will die needlessly. They will have perished because a nation obsessed by fantasies of endless warfare did not address the real dangers facing the country. There will be more pandemics after COVID-19 because evolution of viruses never stops, and it is just a matter of time before the next wave comes. Even if all viruses are defeated by medical science, the global danger of climate change is worsening inexorably and posing an even more challenging test of rational allocation of national resources.
We must awaken from a nightmare of imaginary military threats and horrific war plans to the grim reality of our neglected protections from the true global dangers of disease, climate disruption, poverty, and xenophobia. Such an awakening will be an ample recompense for the suffering endured by the world’s people in the Coronovirus pandemic of 2020.
The Green Party of the US has consistently advocated the redirection of US national resources away from excessive military spending and toward social needs. Citizens who wish to restore sanity to the allocation of our government’s resources and reorder national priorities to serve the common good should vote for Green Party candidates for local and national office. The Green Party is the party of peace and social justice. It is the party that is ready to serve an American public awakened to our true national priorities.