The Covid-19 epidemic created a debate on the nature of defense in our country.
The stimulus bills passed by Congress will most likely drive the federal deficit to its highest point in the history of our country - $3.7 trillion, said reports. Of course, some are arguing that we should not tamper with the Department of Defense's budget because current threats are too high. Fred Bartels, a fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation, said the defense budget needs to match the National Defense Strategy which does not change in the pandemic, said reports. He also said the United States must prepare for great rivalry power with China and Russia.
Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairmen of the House Armed Services Committee, recently said that the nuclear modernization program started by President Barack Obama and continued under President Donald Trump should be a target for cuts. Reports said the Pentagon will request billions more to help contractors hit by Covid-19. Smith said that he would not support further funding and that the Pentagon could find unused funding in the $738 billion budget. The chairmen's remarks came on the heels of Win Without War and other organizations delivering a letter to Congress expressing skepticism about the ability of the Pentagon to find unused resources.
Progressive Congressman Ro Khanna (D Calif.) recently said that our country must view issues like cybersecurity, climate change, biosecurity, and Covid-19 as serious threats facing the nation, said reports. She also said our country was too focused on terrorism and great power politics.
Since the end of the Cold War, we have engaged in a geopolitical tug-of-war with the Chinese-Russian block who are a part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. The United States works through power blocks like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Quadrilateral Security Dialog. However, Covid-19 does not know anything about these power blocks. The virus is like other security threats such as climate change and biosecurity. Cyberwarfare plays a role in the current geopolitical conflict, but more tanks, planes, and ships do us no good there either.
Our country is currently suffering from more deaths per number of people than countries such as Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan. Right now, the U.S. has over 70,000 deaths and some are predicting a grim summer. While the more successful Asian countries engaged in social distancing and shut down restaurants, bars, and certain retail establishments - just like our country - they also developed tests as soon as the genetic sequences for the virus could be developed, according to reports. In addition, they also ramped-up production of the tests and funded the testing to make sure their populations were financially secure. The countries also isolated infected people and tried to contact those who were in contact with those infected people.
Some have called for an approach like Singapore and other Asian countries. These countries saw the threat after the outbreak of the Server Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus in 2008 and then developed a system to manage pandemics. Our country should follow their lead and engage in the same steps to defeating Covid-19. We should develop a more robust public health system by transferring funds from the traditional defense structure to the United States Public Health Service. The geopolitical game we play with the Russia-China block represents an aversion from real security!
Jason Sibert is the Executive Director of the Peace Economy Project in St. Louis.
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