Why the Coronavirus Pandemic and America’s Disastrous Response Will Inspire Future Use of Bioweapons

Excerpt 3 of 5, adapted to stand alone, from a May 26, 2020 SPECIAL REPORT on coronavirus

By Brian E. Frydenborg (LinkedInFacebookTwitter @bfry1981)

1.) THE WORLD FAILS ON CORONAVIRUS, LED BY AMERICA

Living systems are not like mechanical systems.  Living systems are never in equilibrium.  They are inherently unstable.  They may seem stable, but they’re not.  Everything is moving and changing.  In a sense, everything is on the edge of collapse.

—John Arnold, in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park (1990)

When asked recently “where” we went “wrong” specifically as far as the coronavirus pandemic but also generally, if there was an “exact moment,” journalist Masha Gessen replied by saying “I think there are many moments.  But certainly, our responses, as a nation, to 9-11 and to the financial crisis of 2008, paved the ground for this, as has our persistent disregard for the climate crisis.”

We must hope that, in the long-run, we do not respond to the coronavirus in incredibly self-destructive ways that echo our responses to 9/11 and the other unconventional, asymmetric threats we failed to properly understand and handle, failures I have outlined before. Depressingly, though, the signs are already dire.

One of the most depressing things about this pandemic is that, as an American who had little faith in our leadership or system to significantly mitigate this looming disaster, I looked to countries with far more competent leadership and more centralized and robust health systems than ours to be beacons in the night of this pandemic, especially for democratic countries to beam in this true trial not just for humanity, but Western democracy, which has been teetering of late.  I saw a few slivers of light for effective coronavirus programs so far—South Korea especially above all but also IsraelGermany, plucky Ireland, and, at least through the present and perhaps still to be, Japan—but, overwhelmingly, I saw darkness where I expected light in Europe from technocratic establishments and national health systems that (mostly) did not have buffoons in charge or the gaping holes of America’s health system that this pandemic has displayed all-too glaringly.  ItalySpain, and France are obvious disasters, along with the Netherlands and the UK (whose Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, led the way with poor choices both personally and as a leader and found himself hospitalized in an intensive care unit; and just look at this thread delving into differences between the UK and Ireland). Even Sweden seems like it could be an example of bad-practice: like the other mentioned countries, it did not take proper precautions for long after it should have.  Some of these countries are regular fountains of inspiration for Americans who expect more from their government, but these nations failed here along with us to varying degrees.  In the absence of traditional U.S. global-level leadership, then, there essentially was no global leadership

Much of the developing world has yet to be hard hit, but there is great potential for the tolls there to be devastating.  The terrible government response in Brazil–exemplified by the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro—seems to be setting up a tidal wave of infections, which were recently likely twelve times higher than officially reported numbers.  In Ecuador, a country with little ability to conduct proper testing to determine the full extent of the virus, the death toll recently seemed to be fifteen times higher than what officials there had been able to determine.  If the coronavirus spreads intensely in Africa, the prospects there are also looking quite grim.  In many poorer nations around the world, social distancing is a privilege and a luxury that for a great many is impossible (not even getting into the situation of earlier-discussed refugees).  And already terrible social and economic conditions in many developing nations are only being made exponentially worse by COVID-19, meaning that hunger is now going to be a much larger problem globally, rising to affect 265 million people after factoring in coronavirus, nearly doubling the pre-pandemic figures.  Other sad realities coronavirus will exponentially inflate include, but are hardly limited to, domestic abusehuman trafficking, and suicide.  The threat to the developing world is only exacerbated by the recent inexcusable, despicable, “incredibly stupid,” and needless U.S. announcement that it will halt funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) in the midst of a global pandemic, a decision that for many in the world’s poorest nations that sorely lack vital resources amounts to a death sentence if that funding is not replaced soon from elsewhere; as if that was not enough, the Trump Administration is seeking to do long-term damage to the WHO beyond just defunding it.

Despite plenty of poor responses globally, that top national leadership in America seems to have stood out in failing miserably is not in serious dispute for anyone attempting objectivity.  This was even obvious fairly early, before most American were concerned, with top government officials warning the president repeatedly in January and February about the extraordinary nature of the coronavirus threat and bringing it to the attention of the White House’s National Security Council even earlier.  Others outside the current Administration also sounded the alarm early, including former Vice President Joe Biden—the now-clear Democratic presidential nominee-to-be set to challenge the incumbent president for the White House—who even wrote an op-ed published on January 27 warning of the seriousness of the coronavirus threat and how ill-prepared we were to confront it.  As Richard Haas, President of the Council on Foreign Relations, made painfully clear, “putting off the decision to go on the offensive against COVID-19–treating a war of necessity as a war of choice–has proved extraordinarily costly in terms of lives lost and economic destruction.”  In a pandemic in which timing has perhaps been the most important factor or at least as important as any, our leaders at the top sat passively—even stubbornly—and refused to look at the rising viral tsunami heading in our direction, let alone acknowledge it as the hundred-year plague it was.

Even the military has been seriously affected, one notable example being the Navy having to semi-abandon one of our aircraft carriers in mid-deployment, another being that recruitment has been hampered.

And while books could be and articles already have been written that demonstrate America’s failure clearly even for the most fanatically partisan supporters of the current leadership, here will be shared just this excellent, highly informative, regularly updated chart from The Financial Timesthat shows the U.S. is, literally, the worst at “flattening the curve” (the main format has been changed but there is an interactive version of the below chart here that lets you set up your own comparisons):

That phrase “flattening the curve” (or “bending the curve” as a precursor) was only understood by a handful of people a few months ago but is now well-known coronavirus-era lingo for taking collective action to limit the spread and death-toll of the virus, to lower the height of the curve (bend it) over and then keep it from increasing (flattening it) so that our medical systems can better care for those infected (with bending again all the way down after flattening as the endgame). Clearly, our American curve stands out in the above chart as both the most stridently upward-trending arc and the arc that took the longest to be pulled down relative to other nations grappling with serious coronavirus outbreaks over a similar timeframe.  Case/infection-counts are highly problematic for a variety of reasons, but the deaths statistic is far clearer as to its weight, meaning, and finality, the above chart highlighting quite well that statistic and how well countries are at slowing deaths (even if globally across the board there is a serious problem of unintentional undercounting and underattributing deaths from coronavirus, tracking deaths is still far less ambiguous than tracking overall cases/infections). 

So, relatively speaking, despite massive daily disinformation to the contrary, the U.S seems to have done the worst job of flattening the curve of coronavirus deaths out of countries with significant levels of infection that have experienced fighting coronavirus for a similar amount of time, and this would seem to be the case even for allowing for countries like China (from which this pandemic originated) and Russia, which are virtually certainly deliberately underreporting their coronavirus case numbers and deaths and also allowing for serious questions about developing countries with poor means of tracking the virus, as discussed earlier.  And while the U.S. is hardly the worst in terms of deaths per capita, the above chart shows with the available data that it is still the worst of any country with a major outbreak at slowing the level of death (and preventive measures like lockdowns seem collectively to be a much more important variable than population size or density, anyway).

And the chart just takes into account the deaths we know about; there are “almost certainly” Americans dying from coronavirus not being counted as coronavirus-related deaths because of testing issues, reporting issues, and other shortcomings, with this hardly being the situation only in the U.S. 

In the U.S. in particular, the lack of testing has emerged as one of the premier failings regarding coronavirus, making our sense of how many are truly infected by (and, to a lesser extent, dying from) the virus woefully incomplete and greatly hampering our ability to accurately model the spread of the virus.  And this, in turn, makes it very difficult for leaders to plan ahead beyond the short-term.  Especially because of our lack of testingone of the most crucial aspects of coronavirus response—we are essentially on a ship at night in heavy fog, trying to see what obstacles lie ahead and how to avoid them but unable to see far in front because of that fog and unable to have any solid sense of when the fog will lift or if or when it will return.  Under those conditions, crashing into an iceberg and sinking is far more likely.  A military counterinsurgency analogy is also apt, as not having enough testing is like trying to neuter an insurgency without having intelligence or enough regular patrols to get a lay of the land before, say, sending a major convoy through enemy territory: with few pieces of intelligence and fewer teams gathering intelligence, the chances the enemy can launch a successful ambush on that convoy when it is sent out are far greater than if you had a much larger number of troops getting much more intelligence on the enemy territory.  Intelligence helps to lift the fog of war, then, while testing helps to lift the fog of pandemics.

Considering a detailed, highly-credibly report from last year ranked America, by relatively far, as the best-prepared nation in the world for a pandemic, the failure in U.S. leadership is even more stunningly spectacular and inexcusable; it is like losing a race in which you started ahead of everyone or if you were, say, someone who inherited millions and were already working in a lucrative field (maybe real estate in Manhattan in the 1980s) and then still managed to go bankrupt six times.

In the words of Max Brooks from an interview from late March:

I think that we have been disastrously slow and disorganized from day one.  I think the notion that we were caught unaware of this pandemic is just an onion of layered lies.  That is not true at all.  We have been preparing for this since the 1918 influenza pandemic.  No excuse…The knowledge was out.  We knew.  We did not prepare.  This is on us.

…All of this panic could have been prevented if the federal government had done what it was supposed to do before the crisis became a crisis.  Because the way to stop panic is with knowledge, and if the president had been working since January to get the organs of government ready for this, we as citizens could have been calmed down knowing that the people that we trust to protect us are doing that.

A friend of mine, Ellen Adair (an actress who played a top senator’s chief of staff in Homeland in its previous season while that universe’s America was facing nontraditional, asymmetric threats similar to the types we are currently facing from Russia), pointed out a specific article from a few years back that saw all too much of this coming: writing in the summer of 2018 for The Atlantic, Ed Yong terrifyingly accurately predicts not only America’s general unpreparedness for a pandemic, but why this current administration would be particularly ill-suited for handling one (his late March, 2020, predictions for how this will end—made when the U.S. outbreak was starting to really pick up steam and yet was still a fraction as bad as it is now—should also be of interest).  While the entire piece from before COVID-19 even existed feels exceedingly current and sickeningly prescient, I felt particular chills reading these words:

Perhaps most important, the U.S. is prone to the same forgetfulness and shortsightedness that befall all nations, rich and poor—and the myopia has worsened considerably in recent years.  Public-health programs are low on money; hospitals are stretched perilously thin; crucial funding is being slashed.  And while we tend to think of science when we think of pandemic response, the worse the situation, the more the defense depends on political leadership.

…Preparing for a pandemic ultimately boils down to real people and tangible things: A busy doctor who raises an eyebrow when a patient presents with an unfamiliar fever.  A nurse who takes a travel history. A hospital wing in which patients can be isolated.  A warehouse where protective masks are stockpiled. A factory that churns out vaccines.  A line on a budget.  A vote in Congress.  “It’s like a chain—one weak link and the whole thing falls apart,” says Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.  “You need no weak links.”


Right now, we look bad, and the idea of the U.S. leading the world when it cannot lead itself anymore is indeed going to be problematic for many who used to be comfortable with U.S. leadership or, at least, tacitly accepted it.  That does not mean there will be a new world order overnight, but it sure will be harder for not just millions, but likely hundreds of millions or even billions of people to see the U.S. as a leader after our failures with this virus are literally broadcast every day for global public consumption.

Of course, there is plenty of blame to go around in America, from governors’ mansions to various media outlets, from our very own American culture to ourselves, from individual institutions to local leaders.  One standout in that last group is the Wisconsin Assembly Speaker telling people during the recent controversially-held dangerous April 7th elections in his state to go outside and vote after he himself worked to stop both extending absentee voting and delaying the election despite the pandemic, saying this to Wisconsinites this while wearing what seems to be a hospital-quality mask, gloves, and gown set.  Dysfunction and division is not just present at the federal level and between states and the federal government, then, but within states, between governors and mayors or others all throughout the country: in South Dakota, there is even a dispute between the governor and Sioux tribal authorities.

But in dire emergencies like this, the national leaders set the tone for the nation as a whole, with many others farther down the totem pole taking their cues from national leadership, none more so than the top national leader, be it a president, prime minister, or king.  And this is the way it should be.  When we were attacked at Pearl Harbor all the way back in 1941, we did not have dozens of regional, state, city, county, and town war policies operating independently from one another: we had a coordinated national effort, and fighting deadly national and global pandemics should be no different.  In the 1940s, we were able to triumph in our finest national hour even as were caught off-guard.  That clearly has not happened with coronavirus, and our “collective” “national” response can be said to be anything but a single one with unity of purpose.

In stunning displays of hubris and lack of preparation, Napoleon in 1812 and Hitler in 1941 famously sent their armies towards Russia in June, months away from the famed Russian winter, with no winter clothing.  Now we can similarly say that, in 2020, the American President allowed our medical first-line responders to face off against coronavirus without nearly enough proper protective gear despite having weeks and months to take proper action to equip them.

We could have approached this coronavirus threat with the mentality of the Starks in Game of Thrones, whose mantra is “winter is coming”be prepared, get ready, unite, take this threat very seriously, take nothing for granted.  Instead, (spoilers for the show/books in this sentence) our leaders were more like Queen Cersei Lannister in the final seasons: warned repeatedly and with a zombie-wight coming at her face-to-face, she still did not prioritize dealing with the Army of the Dead and, instead, took the crisis as an opportunity to advance her personal and political interests, to settle scores and amass power for herself.

Wherever blame should or should not be placed, this novel (new) coronavirus has brought the world to its knees.  Socially and economically, a huge portion of global activity has come to screeching halt or, at least, a vastly reduced intensity.  Something this sudden on a global scale is new for humanity, and we have no idea even when this pandemic will really end (other than an increasing understanding that the end will probably not be soon), if it will end, how soon other waves will come or how bad those waves will be (they may be worse).  The virus’s national and overall global spread even seems to be increasing several months into the pandemic, not decreasing.  We do not know how many people will die (today, there will be over 350,000 worldwide and over 100,000 in the U.S. for just the recorded COVID-19 deaths), except that earlier rosier predictions are now clearly way off the mark.  People are deeply fearful of a deeply uncertain future and what the world will look like after this virus leaves its initial mark.  Thus, this novel coronavirus is not only engendering a sense of fear throughout the human race, but also terror.

But the true terror is to come.

2.) A FAR MORE WORRISOME FUTURE

The death wish of the theocratic totalitarians, for themselves and others, is too impressive to overlook.

—Christopher Hitchens, “Terrorism: Notes toward a definition,” Slate, November 18, 2002

Ultimately, humanity might not end with a bang but with a feeble cough.

—Max Brooks, “The Next Pandemic Might Not Be Natural,” Foreign Policy, April 20, 2020

Despite the examples listed earlier in my brief biowarfare and bioterrorism survey and other acts not included therein, both biological warfare and bioterrorism have been exceedingly rare in history.

One obvious reason for this is that it is hard to ensure that such weapons only infect the enemy and not also the people attempting to do the infecting and their compatriots (Japanese forces, for example, incurred thousands of casualties from their own bioweapons use in China).  In other words, bioagents are so dangerous that they have mostly been felt to be too dangerous to use, especially on a larger scale.

The idea that is supposed to give us comfort is that, in theory, it is not rational to use such weapons.  Yet the country with the largest bioweapons program in history—the Soviet Union—was regarded as insecure, famously concerned with self-preservation and constrained by rational realpolitik as a result, making it fairly predictable.  Sure, the Soviets did not use these weapons, but they still put smallpox in ICBMS and worked to create disease even worse than Mother Nature has been able to create.

Rather than us being able to trust in some solid proof of human rationality—the concept of which, as an overall rule, is highly debatable at best—then, I feel the non-use of biological weapons (similar to the situation with nuclear weapons after 1945) is less a natural product of human wisdom or design but, instead, is a product of the small-N problem, that dilemma of comparative studies and of politics in general: that there is such a small number of relevant actors with bioweapons capabilities that we cannot draw rock-solid proof from those weapons’ non-use that this is non-use some sort of “natural” outcome.  In short, we have likely just “lucked out” biological (and nuclear) weapons have not been used because only a handful of governments have had serious capabilities and the technology was advanced enough to the degree that it was hard to have anyone other than governments and specialized scientists develop them, and of these small samples, only a handful of those had the will to actually pursue these weapons, with an even far smaller number pursuing their use.

As any basic statistics primer would tell you, though, the more actors that develop such capabilities, the greater the chance that such capabilities will eventually be used, with that probability increasing being a mathematical certainty.

And therein lies one of the major current problems.  For, even before now, technology had advanced in recent years to a degree that has made it far easier for governments, organizations, and individuals to research, produce, and deploy these weapons: the internet has made the information on how to do all that more available than ever before; logistics technology have made the ability to obtain and transport necessary materials easier than ever before; and advances in medical science and technology have opened up bioengineering and made creating biolabs easier, by far, than ever before. 

So that “small-N (number)” reality an ally in perpetuating the non-use of bioweapons, that bulwark that so few people had access or ability when it came to what was needed to operationalize bioweapons, has been dramatically weakened in recent years as the breadth of actors with the ability to research, develop, and deploy bioweapons has grown exponentially in recent years with the latest remarkable advances of human civilization. 

The math, then, has changed: that probability that the small-N problem kept so low is now dramatically higher.

Even putting aside the small-N problem being a more likely explanation for general non-use of bioweapons up through the present than our own supposed rationality—even if we accept, in principle, that it is our rationality that is to be credited for the lack of biowarfare and bioterrorism and could take comfort in that—the future still looks comparatively bleak.  And the reason for that is because, relative to the rest of the modern era, we ae seeing an explosion in those swelling the ranks of apocalyptic-minded groups of religiously-motivated violent extremists.  Indeed, our era has seen a sharp increase in the number of terrorists willing to sacrifice themselves, their people, and countless innocent civilians in pursuit of their apocalyptic goals.   Such terrorists are possessed with end-times-oriented mindsets that are hell-bent on accelerating the arrival of the apocalypse, with ISIS as the flagship movement.

If we add to that equation the possibility of governments using newer science—especially genetic engineering and advanced vaccination programs—to perfect a way to immunize their own militaries and people against a weapon they could then feel safe to deploy against others and therefore confident to weaponize and develop, then the threat of bioweapons being used against America and others is only increasing by yet another factor.  If you think this sounds too much like science fiction, recall how a mass biological test on the part of the U.S. government infected the whole San Francisco metropolitan area in 1950 and how the public never learned about it until 1976.  In other words, if another government wanted to immunize its population against something pretty nasty without drawing attention to that nasty something, there are more than a few ways to immunize people without people even knowing they are being immunized (slipping in with other standard immunizations, perhaps adding into the water or food supply, manufacturing a controlled “outbreak” that would give cover for a mass immunization, etc.), especially for a government motivated enough to carry out and plan years in advance a biological first strike with a deadly bioweapon.

But there are other technological multipliers that have yet to have their potential impact be anywhere near realized that make the future look even less comforting.  Technology has just recently been advancing, and is continuing to advance, rapidly in such a way that it is only going to exponentially increase the number of actors able to carry out biological attacks, and that is even in addition to the exponential increase that has already occurred recently.  And perhaps the foremost reason for this coming exponential growth in potential biothreats and actors is a new genetic engineering technique known as CRISPR—Clustered Regularly Interspersed Short Palindromic Repeats—that makes it far easier and cheaper to create bioweapons than ever before.

To put this into perspective, some CRISPR kits were selling for under $150 even in 2017.  A United Nations panel even characterized this CRISPR threat as do-it-yourself bioweapons creation (“DIY biological labs”).  One post from a leading bioresearch and development company that has led on, and sells, CISPR tools and material ended by noting CRISPR’s “usefulness for genome locus-specific recruitment of proteins will likely only be limited by our imagination.”  And if we recall that Dream of Scipio quote from the introduction about how man is worse than beast because beasts are constrained by their lack of imagination but men are not, well, that is where this gets truly terrifying.  Indeed, the alarm has been soundly rung by many an expert on the soon-to-be-clear and present danger of this CRISPR technology’s ability to empower those with the most malevolent of imaginations.  We are, then, being presented with a brave new world of bioterrorism.

Thus, the guardrails—supposed or real—that may have offered protection from the use of bioweapons before are simply not as strong as they used to be.  Even if we accept human rationality as a bulwark, some of the biggest increases in terrorism involve suicide attackers and those embracing apocalyptic theology hoping to bring about a final world-ending confrontation, comforted by an ideology that tells them if they die as martyrs fighting for their cause they will ascend to heaven with a special spot waiting for them, with a degree of terrorists and terrorist groups concerned less with temporal self-preservation than at any other time in the modern era.  And whatever their motives, the modern world has not only already made bioweapons more accessible than ever to them, but will also dramatically expand this greater accessibility with the newest CRISPR technology that will itself spread rapidly.  Thus, we have both terrorists increasingly less worried about doing damage to themselves and a far greater number of actors that will be dabbling in bioweapons.

I had earlier discussed Max Boot’s lesson on technology at the end of his book on guerrilla warfare, Invisible Armies (“technology has been less important in guerrilla war than in conventional war”), but I left out the second part of his lesson’s heading, “but that may be changing,” to save it for here.  He does not mean the usefulness of technology on our end, either; he is talking about a change in favor of terrorists:

The role of weapons in this type of war [i.e. unconventional] could grow in the future if insurgents get their hands on chemical, biological, or especially nuclear weapons. A small terrorist cell the size of a platoon might then have more killing capacity than the entire army of a nonnuclear state like Brazil or Egypt.  That is a sobering thought.  It suggests that in the future low-intensity conflict could pose even greater problems for the world’s leading powers than it has in the past.  And, as we have seen, the problems of the past were substantial and varied.

And the type of weapons which are seeing the most rapid advancement in technology and ease of access are not chemical or nuclear, but biological.

In fact, as Karl Johnson, one veteran of fighting Ebola outbreaks, mentioned over a quarter-century ago:

It’s only a matter of months—years, at most—before people nail down the genes for virulence and airborne transmission in influenza, Ebola, Lassa, you name it.  And then any crackpot with a few thousand dollars’ worth of equipment and a college biology education under his belt could manufacture bugs that would make Ebola look like a walk around the park.

For Max Brooks, “Johnson’s prediction is right around the corner. With a little dark-web information and some secondhand lab equipment, anyone will soon be able to generate do-it-yourself blights in a basement lab and then release them back into the general population.”

Brooks echoes the earlier sentiments expressed herein that public policy attention given to threats posed by nuclear weapons are overemphasized relative those given to biological weapons.  As Brooks writes in Foreign Policy:

Genetic manipulation is the most dangerous threat humanity has ever faced because it allows anyone to spin straw into lethal gold. Unlike the hypothetical nuclear terrorist whom we’ve spent untold fortunes preparing for but who can’t act without acquiring precious, rare, and heavily guarded fissile material, the biohacker will be able to harvest germs from anywhere.  And unlike the nuclear terrorist, who gets only one shot at destruction, the biohacker’s bomb can copy itself over and over again.

If we look at the present and the future, then, without a doubt, terrorists and governments that have been and are pursuing the research and development of arsenals of bioweapons will only be doing so under even more favorable conditions to their goals as the future unfolds, including the near-future.  For these biowarrior wannabes, they are seeing what just something superflu/superpneumonia-ish like this coronavirus can do and are thinking of the damage and havoc they can wreak with far worse diseases.  And not only them but those who were on the fence about or reluctant to consider pursuing bioweapons programs will be seriously thinking that now.  Because the logical conclusion anyone contemplating biowarfare would draw from our current pandemic is that if coronavirus can do what it is doing now to America and the world, a deliberate, competent bioattack at a certain level could destroy the world as we know it.  We must realize that, to the degree that we are unsettled and shaken by looking at the state of our nation, our enemies are emboldened and more confident in their ability to do us harm.

Just imagine a brand new virus engineered to kill thirty percent—let alone fifty or seventy-five percent—of victims and that incapacitates most of the rest, one that spreads like wildfire, for which we have no immunity and no cure, which could cripple nations in days (not weeks), wiping out some people in key leadership positions along with millions of others, and incapacitating for days or weeks even those that survive.  Imagine the people unleashing such a disease are religious terrorists with apocalyptic death-wishes (plenty of those) or military officials from a government that has developed a secret immunity that only they and their countrymen have.  Imagine, while we are crippled, our enemy then offers the immunity it to allies or potentially new allies in the moment of crises, allowing it to destroy the nations as we know them that it deems enemies, remaking a world order with our successful enemy at the top.  Even staunch allies of ours would be tempted to fold in the face of a weapon for which the only defense comes with joining the new order. 

Think about the decades to come, in a world far more crowded where living space will literally be an issue, imagine an invasion by troops immune to the virus; with our leaders, government, and society—including the military—largely wiped out or crippled by the disease, how would an effective resistance—military or medical—to a simultaneous military and viral invasion be able to be mounted in the face of an organized enemy largely escaping the effects of such a disease?  And if the enemy offers immunity for a disease for which we have no cure and have no hope of dealing with medically in time in exchange for surrender, if the choice is between surrender and death, what happens to us and America as we know it?  The sixteenth-century Spanish conquistadors did not plan to use the smallpox virus as a biological weapon to mostly wipe out the mighty armies of the Aztecs and the Incas and bring their societies to their knees with it in the span of a blink of a historical eye, but smallpox obliged anyway, and the Spanish wiped those Empires easily from the face of the earth as a result.  The same devastating effects with the right cocktail of virus can happen today.

One case study shows how a just single person can easily cause over a dozen new coronavirus infections; imagine how few infected people would be required to mass-transmit a far worse virus like the hypothetical engineered one described a few paragraphs above. 

Now consider that out current coronavirus has already weakened and damaged democracy in some places —including in the U.S.pushed it to the brink in others, and, at least in the case of Hungary, seems to have destroyed it.  And that does not even get to authoritarians and the authoritarian-leaning, for whom the virus has been an excellent excuse to crack down on freedoms.

The simple truth is, we are not prepared even for a naturally occurring pandemic like coronavirus, let alone a worse one than coronavirus, let alone even more so bioagents designed to as a weapon by our human enemies to kill us and crush our society.

How we appear now matters to our enemies, and not only was the U.S. caught off-guard, its overall response has exposed our weaknesses to the world (and hopefully ourselves).  Whether we learn from this experience and patch up our weaknesses before the next major threat—natural or man-made or a sick combination of both—remains to be seen.

© 2020 Brian E. Frydenborg all rights reserved, permission required for republication, attributed quotations welcome

See Brian’s full coronavirus coverage here and his latest eBook version of the full special report,Coronavirus the Revealer: How the Coronavirus Pandemic Exposes America As Unprepared for Biowarfare & Bioterrorism, Highlighting Traditional U.S. Weakness in Unconventional, Asymmetric Warfare, available in Amazon KindleBarnes & Noble Nook, and EPUB editions.

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