…by DR. ALAN NED SABROSKY, for Veterans Today
It is fair to say that few events in modern history have had such a disruptive effect globally as the COVID-19 virus, and the chaotic response of different nations and global organizations to it.
There is much debate about it in different circles, to say nothing of a barely concealed coordinated effort in the social media to suppress anything resembling coherent disputes with official WHO (World Health Organization) and U.S. CDC (Center for Disease Control) assessments.
The COVID-19 Virus
But let us be honest with ourselves. There is much we simply do not know about this virus, and may never know for certain – at least not in the near future when we can actually adjust what we – as societies, nations and people – are doing, or trying to do, about it. Did it originate with a diseased bat or a bio-war lab?
If the latter, was the release planned or accidental? (I personally doubt it was planned, at least as a trial run – no one ever alerts targets to the existence of such a weapon before it is fully deployable – but I am aware of the counter-arguments). How is it transmitted: airborne, by touch, by bodily fluids, or…? How long is the incubation period? How long are infected people, symptomatic or not, contagious? And so on.
What we do know is that the immediate impact on many countries has been extremely disruptive, not least because of assorted lock-down orders issued by their governments which have had all but paralyzing social impacts on peoples and brought economies in many places to a standstill.
Many businesses have closed, some forever; unemployment is skyrocketing in many places (in the U.S., nearly 30 million people are now unemployed, approaching the percentages of the Great Depression); and the numbers of cases and deaths therefrom – whatever their factual accuracy – have been more than sufficient politically to compel governments across the political spectrum to react as if they were the gospel truth.
Here as in so many cases, perception trumps reality politically – whether perception actually mirrors reality or not is a pointless debate, given that we simply do not and may not ever know for certain.
So what does this all mean? I am only going to address here a few points I find interesting. First, it has been said that “It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good,” and in the midst of the gnashing of teeth and yowling accompanying the onset of COVID-19, there does seem to be a silver lining – at least for many Western countries.
Many had been beset by growing numbers of illegal migrants from Africa and the Middle East, forced upon the U.S. and Europe by many NGOs largely funded by multi-billionaire George Soros and other globalists.
All Western governments were thrashing around about how to deal with this problem. Now, in the aftermath of the virus and the lock-downs or quarantines that have followed, most have closed their borders, and leftist parties that once supported these migrants have more immediate concerns closer to home on their political agendas.
This is an unexpected boon to those concerned with preserving their cultures and averting the disruption that most of these migrants bring with them, and even if it does not outlast the virus itself, it has at least brought some respite.
Second, it is curious that the virus seems to have had – with few exceptions, like China and Iran – its greatest impact on developed Western countries. More densely populated countries in Asia (e.g. Japan) which are NOT beset by migrants have had far less trouble with COVID-19.
And Middle Eastern countries devastated by U.S.-led wars or Sub-Saharan countries with appalling internal conditions – the source of most migrants – while not unscathed, generally have escaped the worst of this infestation: one commonly used source makes this pattern all too clear (and yes, I understand the criticism directed at it, but no one has any global cross-national assessment that is better):
It is important to look at the two right-hand columns (total cases per 1 million population, and deaths per 1 million population) to appreciate this point.
If hygiene, overall living conditions and vulnerability to disease were controlling, one would not expect countries like the U.S. (206 deaths per million), Italy (478 deaths per million) and Sweden (265 deaths per million) to be so much higher than countries like El Salvador (2 deaths per million), Libya (0.4 deaths per million) and the Congo (2 deaths per million). Quibbles about the validity or reliability of the data simply cannot account for such disparities.
It is almost as if those countries that were the targets of the migrants were being “softened up” to facilitate their future entrance once the pandemic runs its course, which if true would assuredly be a strategic objective of the first order.
Third, the domestic political ramifications of this crisis – manufactured or real – within the U.S. and other countries (especially Europe) are still unfolding, and I will focus on the U.S. and leave the rest to analysts closer to them.
This country is now faced with near-depression unemployment levels, the potential permanent loss of up to half of America’s small businesses and the downsizing of many larger ones (only the financial institutions really seem to be doing well in this mess), and a destabilization of the food supply chain that could easily be worse than the Great Depression with unforeseeable social consequences – especially in urban areas.
All of these things are very bad news for President Trump and his party, no matter how appallingly the Democrats are behaving. His administration’s great achievement before January 2020 was a strong economy and near-record low unemployment, all of which is now gone, compounded by a rapidly escalating national debt exceeding even that of former President Obama in his worst year.
I do not know if Trump (except – and this is a BIG “except” – for his bonding with Israel) is part of the swamp or someone who wanted to clean it out. No one knows for certain. But if the Democrats can put anyone other than a Biden suffering from progressing senile dementia up as a presidential candidate, it will be difficult if not impossible for Trump to prevail in November – and he will pull many in his party down with him.
All of which would be another strategic objective of the first order, IF Trump is (or is perceived as being) more of a swamp cleaner than a swamp creature.
Finally, the damage done to one global industry has explicit ramifications here and abroad. This is the airline industry. Right now, at least two-thirds of all aircraft (approximately 15,000 of 24,000+ globally) are grounded; passengers flying are down approximately 95% from last year at this time; and all U.S. airlines are looking at major downsizing after September 30, if not before. This video depicts what is happening in gruesome detail:
I would be surprised if the airline industry rebounds to 50% of its pre-2020 levels of service within 5 years, barring a miracle on a par with the apocryphal biblical parting of the Red Sea for Moses and company. And for many reasons, this particular collapse will have ramifications beyond that of the comparable collapse of any other industry – even, perhaps, the auto industry – something from discussions to date I do not believe has been fully understood.
The post-COVID-19 world is certainly going to be a very different world. One aspect of global business models has been business travel for physical meetings elsewhere – a legacy of the pre-digital age that has persisted (largely needlessly except for the perks of the travel!) in an era of broadband communications and computer-based virtual meetings. This has been put largely on hold now, and I would guess that as economies restart, the work-from-home and meet-by-Zoom (or whatever) patterns will become embedded.
What this will mean is obviously that office spaces will become largely superfluous, or at best there will be a reduced need for them in home cities. What it will also mean is that hotels, restaurants and conference centers that catered to business travelers will be greatly scaled back, all of which will have serious consequences for many urban areas.
It also means that the golden era of airline travel is over for many years to come: business travelers dominated seating in first and business classes on airlines, often paying full fare, and as I have heard flight attendants often remark, business travelers “up front” paid the way for reduced fares for a lot of holiday or casual travelers in the main cabin.
A significant reduction in business travel means that fares for the main cabin will go way back up — probably to the level of the 1960s (adjusted for inflation, of course), which means a sharp reduction in transcontinental and international holiday travel.
We might well see a resurgence of bus and rail travel for people on holidays, which will also spill over into attractive destination cities, gutting or at the very least significantly scaling back the tourism industry everywhere.
Yes, a very different world indeed, and that is if the recovery goes well. A revival of this pandemic or anything like it – regardless of origin and/or intent (if any) – will only make things grimmer. So will urban riots or civil warfare if those potential food shortages on the horizon become reality. I do not have an apocalyptic bent, but I am not gulled by wishful thinking, either.
Tighten your belts, my friends here and abroad. We are in for a ride, and it is not going to be pleasant.
Alan Ned Sabrosky (PhD, University of Michigan) is a ten-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran. He served two tours in Vietnam with the 1st Marine Division and is a graduate of the US Army War College. He can be contacted at [email protected]