The United States Can Still Win the Coronavirus Pandemic

The United States Can Still Win the Coronavirus Pandemic

  • The Trump administration has made one mistake after another—and, with some foreign-policy changes, could emerge with more global power anyway.

An event like the new coronavirus forces all of us to make rapid judgments and decisions—in our personal lives, in our financial dealings, in how we do our jobs, and in what we think is going to happen. Whether on Twitter, in interviews, or here at Foreign Policy, prognosticators are offering up hot takes daily, based on whatever information they can gather and the worldviews (i.e., theories) on which they typically rely.

I’m no exception. I’ve already offered a quick “realist” interpretation of what is happening and suggested the crisis was likely to reinforce nationalism, strengthen the state, accelerate a shift in influence toward Asia, reduce confidence in U.S. leadership and competence, and encourage a partial retreat from hyperglobalization. In a Foreign Policy symposium last month, I suggested the end result would be a world “that is less open, less prosperous, and less free” than the world of today.

I stand by those forecasts, but I have also spent some time over the last several days considering whether some of my expectations might not be borne out. In particular, I’ve wondered if my initial forecast of a shift in influence from West to East is going to be as profound as I thought. Despite all the mistakes the Trump administration has made and continues to make—missteps and misjudgments that will cause thousands of otherwise preventable deaths and billions of dollars of economic damage that could have been avoided—it’s still possible that the flexibility, inventiveness, and adaptability of American society, combined with smart initiatives at all levels of government, will enable the United States to get through the worst phase of the crisis and recover fairly quickly. Don’t get me wrong: The situation is grim and is going to get worse, but the question is how matters will look a year or two from now. Needless to say, I’ll be delighted if the country turns out to be more competent and resilient than I thought.