An unprepared world struggles for survival. Amidst this Coronavirus pandemic, the elections in Wisconsin, a US State, where the elections of the State Supreme Court judge and Democratic Party primary for the presidential nominee were held. There was low turnout of voters. If this trend continues, Donald Trump’s second inning as the US president re-elections in the November poll is almost certain. Apart from the poor participation of the electorate, these elections held during the first week of April confirm that the Americans authorities are still not taking this pandemic, which many consider almost a prelude to a biological war, seriously. The authorities just take it a common epidemic, and still have no clues how to shield the people from these secret microbes.
The world is reeling under Coronavirus spread. Except China and Israel, few countries have evolved any mechanism to keep track of the movements of their citizens. It is necessary, but the US-led West, though facing disaster, is yet to be ready with any common short-term contingency plan and a long-term policy initiative. They have not even discussing this much-needed public policy, though the crisis, which had begun in January now enters fourth month. The world is seized with it.
Amidst the health hazards, Wisconsin, one of the prominent states of USA, being under a lock-down since March 25 under the pandemic threat, elected a state Supreme Court judge, and in the primary Biden became the party’s nominee for the presidential office. Deniel Kelly won a 10-year term as a judge. The voting took place in spite of the opposition of the Democrats, but Republican ensured the voting. It appears that the low turnout of voters suites the Republican Party. It may ensure the victory of Donald Trump too.
These political rivalries only reaffirm the worldwide apprehension that the American establishment is yet to measure up to the challenge. The impact of the Coronavirus is worldwide. It is engulfing people of the world,including USA. The open voting in Wisconsin in spite of a large number of virus infection, shows that politics has overwhelmed the security concerns. There is neither a serious public debate on this issue nor a firm policy to tackle such situations, whether it is natural or a part of biological warfare.
For introducing safety measures against such aggressions, large scale surveillance of citizens is required to counter the spread of a virus. The worldwide infection of Coronavirus could not be contained due to the inability of democratic societies to impose restrictions of their citizens. While Chinese have introduced digital identity cards to monitor people’s movements, but USA and Europeans are yet to evolve a public policy. The world has also witnessed blame-game between the US-China, but China has withdrawn allegation that US is behind the pandemic. He also asserted that the allegation was just his personal observation.
Henry Kissinger, one of the most celebrated statesmen of the 20th century, who had played key-role in US-China alliance, maybe had underestimated China’s potential to become a challenge to the West’s hegemony of the past five centuries. He was sure that the World War-III would engulf the world, but, perhaps, could not predict that the new worldwide flare-up might be triggered off by microbes. He had re-scripted the world politics in 1971-72, with the visit of US president Richard Nixon to China. A US-China alliance was forged.
Nixon and the successive presidents did not realize that by enabling Chinese to access higher technologies, they were just empowering China. These policies have empowered China not only to become a financial power, but enabled it to be a technological giant. China’s influence is increasing with a galloping speed without engaging itself into a war. On the international chess-board, the role of microbes was not unknown, but USA, which has been the dominating power during the past 75 years, is now found to be unprepared for this global challenge.
The world is facing “asymmetric threats,” meaning threats that attack us where we are least prepared. During the Cold War years, the big threat to the West was from thermo-nuclear weapons. The security perception did not change ll these years. The threats were predictable. However, the nature of conflicts has changed in recent years. The threats are harder to anticipate. The use of civil jetliners in the 9-11 attacks exposed the US security establishment. This weakness is now much more pronounced in case of the Coronavirus, which could be a first trial of bio-weapons. In such cases even a prior information may not prevent a catastrophe. It may happen, but impossible to predict place and time.
Disease as weapon
The world is reeling under the Coronavirus. It is as grave as the 9-11 attack of the terrorists. These threats to humanity have emerged from the laboratories, where gene-editing is being studied. They have succeeded in developing a gene editing process called CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). This technology is being harnessed for a wide variety of ambitious applications, including agricultural improvement, the elimination of infectious diseases, and human therapeutics, but it could be used to engineer microbe for transmitting diseases like smallpox or even change a normal cold into a deadly decease. Coronavirus is just an intervention of the scientists into the genes of the microbe making it lethal weapon. The intelligence agencies are aware that terrorists may obtain such bio-weapons with a sum of 15000 or US$200, hardly any investment.
The citizens of present day Spain may not be aware of the fact that five centuries ago their ancestors had used small-pox as a weapon against the natives of Mexico. It was, perhaps, the first bio-war, which decimated 15 million natives. Spaniard Hernan Cortes, who already had successfully captured Cuba was asked to subjugate Aztec Empire, which existed in the interior of Mexico. Cortés with only 500 sailors reached the native kingdom, Aztec. Its ruler Montezuma used to govern a vast territory of nearly two lakh square kilometers from the capital city of Tenochtitlan.
Cortes distributed blankets used by the small-pox patients to the native population. It led to the small-pox epidemic destroying most of the people, who lacked immunity to face the infection of the European diseases. With the death of Montezuma, he subjugated the territory for Spain.
With almost Coronavirus infecting 200,000 people in Spain and the death toll reaching 20,000, it appears that nature is almost taking revenge against them what their forefathers had done in Latin America.
Similarly, the British had used small-pox as a weapon to decimate the natives of North America. According to a military document of 18th century, the officer, Henry Bouquer, stated, “We gave them two blankets and a handkerchief out of the smallpox hospital. I hope it will have the desired effect.” However, a section of academia led by Elizabeth A. Fenn of the George Washington University has tried to rebut it. She claims that the natives were already infected before the blankets were given to them, but it has never been denied that the blankets were given to the innocent hapless natives, and thus their entire population was annihilated.
The tragedy of decimating is being repeated in the USA metro cities. The New York authorities have announced that unclaimed bodies will be buried at Hart Island. The deaths in the New York state have almost crossed 8000. In addition to these figures, the New York City alone has reported nearly 200,000 Coronavirus infections.
For the past several weeks, the media across the world, especially in the West, is flooding information about the causes of the virus without ascertaining facts. One of such examples is the publication of a report in The Washington Times reported in early March 2020 that the virus has leaked from a Chinese laboratory engaged in the development of bio-weapons. In his zeal to justify the reporter tried to justify the news by quoting an unknown Israeli intelligence source. The report does not mention that the Wuhan laboratory was established with the help of French engineers and it has been working with a collaborative arrangement with a well-known Texas laboratory in America. It is rather surprising that little attempt was made to seek information from the Western sources, if the Chinese laboratory did not give its version.
The news was followed by a large number of news stories on social media that how China has been benefitted by the outbreak of the epidemic. Within a few weeks, China too blamed USA for the spread of the virus through an unknown CIA official.
Amidst these another unsubstantial news, that Dr Charles Lieber, a well-known Harvard professor, was arrested for manufacturing and selling Coronavirus to China appeared on various internet sites and quoted in a number of newspapers and media channels. However, investigations revealed that he was arrested for lying and making fraudulent statements to US federal authorities about funds he had allegedly received from the Chinese government. His arrest has no connection to the spread of the virus.
The world is closely watching the implementation of the US-China trade agreement signed in January 2020. There is clause in this agreement that its implementation may be delayed or may be postponed, if the countries concerned face any natural calamity. It is stated that this clause was inserted hurriedly, because Coronavirus had already spread in some part of China. China has committed to buy an additional $200 billion of American goods and services by 2021 and crack down on business practices that the Trump administration has criticized. It is yet to be seen how it is implemented amidst the worldwide spread of Coronavirus. The Coronavirus impact is worldwide. It is going to re-script world politics and international business in coming months.