Opinion: Strong global governance is key to addressing COVID-19

by Dylan Meisner, Staff Writer

One of the favorite practices of the increasingly jingoistic modern American right is describing things they don’t like as globalism. The term’s use generally rings hollow of harsh anti-semitic undertones — conspiracy theories of cabalistic global elites working to undermine local native populaces have long since been among the favorite tropes used by Jew-haters.

But global governance is more than just a meme to be used by unserious bigots, even if those bigots have been emboldened and given access to the halls of power in the Trump administration. In a world of increased mutual global access, and now the coronavirus pandemic, more global governance should be considered as a serious option to be considered moving forward.

The purpose of such a move is quite simple. The requisite response to a global pandemic should be treated as an issue of collective security, which always necessitates a coordinated response by a global coalition against a single, agreed-upon offender. The concept of collective security is typified most clearly in Article V of the NATO Charter, which holds that an attack on any NATO ally is to be treated as an attack on all member-states.

Such a construct should hold for a collective response to the coronavirus, given the viral nature of the disease itself, the world’s ability to beat it is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. An increase in global capacity through the cultivation of existing international institutions and the creation of new modes of global governance is the best way forward to not only beat COVID-19, but to ensure that future viruses do not reach its level of pandemonium. 

Critics of this view are likely to cite the already globalized nature of the modern economy, and the world more generally, as a reason to oppose the creation of more global institutions. This perspective misses the mark for a few reasons.

Chiefly, it conflates globalization, which is the global proliferation of goods and services in the form of trade, and globalism, which is the practice of global governance. 

It also ignores the fact that viruses are not uncommon things throughout world history and they appear regardless of the state of globalization at the time. The four-year reign of the deadly Bubonic Plague ended with the deaths of an estimated 75 to 200 million people throughout Eurasia, and it did so between the years of 1347 and 1351 — hardly years of global trade and cooperation. The less oft-cited Plague of Justinian, which took place from 561-62 AD within the Roman Empire took an estimated 25 million lives. The Antonine Plague, also of the Roman Empire but in the year 165 AD took an estimated 5 million lives.

Put bluntly, pandemics of viral infection are inherent to the human condition. Blaming globalization is completely beside the point and a fruitless hypothesis that should vanish in the presence of critical thought.

The frequency at which new viral diseases are presenting themselves within the twenty-first century requires that more globalism be considered as a serious solution. The coronavirus is not alone, it comes on the heels of the Ebola outbreak of 2014, the H1-N1 outbreak of 2009, SARS of 2003 and the holdover of HIV-AIDS of the twentieth century.

The largely unilateral measures taken thus far by the Trump administration, namely, the closing-off of travel, first from China and now Europe, are unlikely to contain a virus that has already taken root in America. 

A more prudent move would be to increase funding to the World Health Organization and encourage others to do the same, with the goal of achieving the astoundingly impressive level of testing achieved thus far in South Korea the world over.

And while it is true that the Trump administration’s response has been grossly negligent, it is necessary to remember who the real culprits are here. It was China, not the Trump administration, who silenced doctors who first warned of the outbreak in Wuhan, its city of origin. It was the Communist Party in China that refused to implement public health measures belonging in this century that led to the virus’s likely origin from a live animal market in Wuhan. It was China, not America that failed to contain its spread, and probably because they were too busy imprisoning north of one million Muslim citizens in modern-day concentration camps in the Xinjiang province. 

A more unified global front would have allowed for a rapid containment effort in the first place, but absent the existence of the requisite institutions for such a response, the finger of blame to be pointed squarely at China once the world finally gets the spread of the virus under control. 

Dylan Meisner is a sophomore studying political science and international security conflict resolutions. Follow him on Twitter @DylMeisner.