I don’t mean to bigfoot AL’s post, but I wanted to put down a marker before Sunday becomes Monday on the east coast. By this time tomorrow, just before Monday 30 March becomes Tuesday 31 March, more Americans will have been killed by COVID-19 than were killed on 9-11 provided the rate of death continues the progression it is currently on. What you won’t see, however, is the response that the US government took by the end of the 11th of September 2001, nor the vast majority of Americans united in grief and fear, which was quickly giving way to grief and anger.
Part of the reason that you won’t see a quick, coordinated government response is that for all that President George W Bush and his senior advisors had discounted the terrorist threat because their national security focus was elsewhere, and regardless of what you may think about his and their politics and ideological preferences, he had staffed his government with competent personnel. Many with experience in previous administrations. Part of the reason you won’t see a quick response is that members of Congress are not panicked now they way they were on 12 September 2001 when it became clear that the only reason many, if not most, of them weren’t dead or seriously injured was because of the brave actions of the passengers of United Flight 93, which prevented the fourth plane from making it to its presumed target: the US Capitol. And part of the reason you won’t see a quick response is that despite the attempts by the President, some of his senior appointees, Republican senators like Tom Cotton, Fox News, and conservative social and digital media, you cannot really demagogue a virus. SARS-CoV2 didn’t write a manifesto explaining the strategic objectives of its viral march around the globe because it is a virus, not an extremist. SARS-CoV2 can’t be taken out by quickly inserting US Special Operators and CIA paramilitary to forge alliances with locals in an unconventional warfare strategy against it because it is a virus, not a violent extremist organization. SARS-CoV2 can’t be defeated by the “shock and awe” of the US’s overwhelming air superiority or by having the 1st Armored Division commence a speed run to Baghdad. JDAMs and Old Ironsides are useless against SARS-CoV2 because it is a virus, not a violent extremist organization, nor an alleged state sponsor of such a group.
If the current projections for the spread of SARS-CoV2, COVID-19 infections caused by its spread, and deaths from COVID-19 continue apace it will only be a week or two until COVID-19 kills more Americans that were killed in Operation Iraqi Freedom and its successor Operation Inherent Resolve and Operation Enduring Freedom and its successor Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. The former operations have resulted in 4,491 Americans killed in action and the latter 3,458 for a total of 7,949. The events of 9-11, which despite the unexpectedly high (by bin Laden and his key lieutenants estimates) number of Americans killed that day, were still one act of terrorism carried out successfully on three targets, led the US to loose its collective mind. To societally freak out. To not just go after those who had attacked us, which was an appropriate response in terms of the objective if not in the actual strategy, but also to go to war with those who had nothing to do with the attacks on 9-11. To do this, the US government mobilized itself. It put a lot of resources into action in a very short period of time in regard to invading Afghanistan and began the planning for even more resources to invade Iraq less than two years later.
SARS-CoV2 and COVID-19 stand to kill thousands, if not hundreds of thousands more Americans than were killed on 9-11 or in our responses to it. We’re still not testing anywhere near enough, but we know it is all over the country, that no region or state will be spared regardless of whether it is a red, blue, or purple state. Florida, which is on its fourth Republican governor in a row, has finally, unfortunately, gotten one that is completely useless in a crisis. Rick Scott might be a crook and Jeb Bush might be dull, but they were competent in a crisis. Jeb Bush exceedingly so. And Florida is going to rapidly equal if not surpass New York. The chicken-hawks that brought us 20 years of repeating the same stalemated operations in Afghanistan and 17 years of chasing our own tails in Iraq, which had NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THE 9-11 ATTACKS AT ALL, are suddenly pollyanish. Largely unconcerned; convinced people are making much ado about nothing more than something akin to a really bad flu season. And they will continue to do so, because it suits their political and financial interests, until COVID-19 claims more American lives than were lost on 9-11, than have been lost in Afghanistan, Iraq, and dozens of the other states we’ve been prosecuting the war on terror in. And eventually begins to claim more lives than were lost in previous wars or previous epidemics. All while the President brags about his ratings and insists that if only 100,000 to 200,000 Americans die from COVID-19, then we’ve been successful in combating it.
Adam Smith once wrote that there is a great deal of ruin in a nation, meaning that it takes a tremendous amount of political bungling and mis-governance by political leaders to bring down a powerful and prosperous nation. We are all going to get to see just how much ruin the United States can withstand, especially given the amount it has been subjected to by the President, his appointees, Senator McConnell and his majority caucus in the Senate, the Republican caucus in the House, the Roberts’ Supreme Court, the President’s supporters and surrogates, Fox News, conservative and social digital news and media, and the President’s base for the past three years.
And all while the numbers of Americans killed by COVID-19 increase one after another after another…