America’s Best and Brightest
I recently read a post at War on the Rocks authored by retired Lieutenant General David W. Barno, U. S. Army and Dr. Nora Bensahel. In their article, they argue that at the end of the present “pandemic,” the American people will come to the realization that the Department of Defense didn’t save them from the virus. They criticize the Defense Department for focusing too much on external threats to our security, and not enough on protecting Americans from this “deadly and life-changing threat.” One can follow the link (above) to read the article and form their own conclusions.
I hate to be the one to say this, but our best and brightest are in reality mediocre and somewhat dim.
Here are my conclusions:
- The COVID-19 event is not unprecedented. We may be “early” into the infection, but perhaps now is an appropriate time for some reality. In 2019-2020, the seasonal influenza infected fifteen million people. Of those, 650,000 died. This statistic reflects a mortality rate of .0433 percent. This is the annual average for deaths due to influenza. So far in 2019-2020, there have been 683,000 cases of infection, of which 32,144 have died. The mortality rate (so far) is .04706%. This would certainly matter to someone who was infected with COVID-19 and “at risk,” but statistically, COVID-19 would seem less than unprecedented.
- Among “at risk” persons (world-wide), the chances of dying from COVID-19 in age groups 50-59 is 1.3%, 60-69 3.6%, 70-79 8%, and above the age of 80, 14.8%. There are 7.8 billion people in the world. Three million of these are 80 or more years of age. Globally, 450,000 people in the highest “at risk” category could (not necessarily will) die from COVID-19. Hardly the worst of our plagues. One third of the entire population of Europe died from the black plague over a couple of hundred years.
I do agree with General Barno and Dr. Bensahel that the infection has had and will continue to have a deleterious impact on the US economy, but this is not the fault of the disease. It is the fault of a government of reactionaries who have made things worse for the American people, not better.
But what floors me (and this may be the result of my lack of medical training) is that Barno and Bensahel argue that we ought to somehow prepare for nation-wide medical emergencies from unknown diseases. We can do that, they argue, by “investing in ways to help prevent another public health emergency.”
Admittedly, I have a negative reaction to such phrases as “investing in ways …”. What that means, as a practical matter, is increased taxes that Congress can waste at their leisure. The authors emphasize, “At a minimum, that will involve expensive measures to revamp emergency pandemic preparedness and to stockpile costly but critical medical equipment, such as ventilators and mobile hospitals. It will probably also include initiatives to provide free diagnostic testing and guaranteed paid sick leave during pandemics …”
So, my question for those who may be in the know, how is this accomplished? What I recall from my days on active duty (decades ago) was that we stockpiled MOPP-4 suits so that we’d have them when or if we had to respond to NBC emergencies.
Note: MOPP stands for Mission Oriented Protective Posture, the numerical designation “4” represents total protection. NBC means nuclear, biological, and chemical agents. Well, so we suddenly needed our protective gear for operations in Iraq and pulled them out of depot storage. What we found is that 80% of this high dollar equipment had dry rotted while in storage. They weren’t worth a plug nickel. Is this what we have in mind for critical ventilators and tentage for mobile hospitals? Really?
Where does Barno and Bensahel suggest? Why, shrinking the defense budget, of course. I’m think that General Barno must be one of those Obama Era flag officers who learned early how to become a “yes man.” When we run out of medical people, when there aren’t sufficient numbers of first responders to domestic emergencies, who do we turn to in order to save a panicked society from itself?
I’ll only point out that it is a United States Navy Ship sitting in New York Harbor at the present time taking care of New Yorkers because Governor Cuomo closed sixteen hospitals and cut Medicaid entitlements to his citizens and sanctuary city beneficiaries.
Now you know my opinions … what are yours?