Should we be treating a disease as a war? Any serious war suspends liberal society. This means freedoms are lost or face restriction. Is it advisable to have a war on poverty or a war on drugs? If we are fighting a war how is confinement to one’s home honorable? If we are fighting a war aren’t there things for people to do?
How are we making contributions to the efforts? How are we part of an effort toward the goal? Exactly what is the goal? If we are going to be in a war isn’t the best course of action to get it over as quickly as we can?
Providing healthcare or expansion of government control?
The coronavirus portrayal is as our antagonist. Wars have historically led to the expansion of governmental power. In America, we have traditionally built up the government to win the war. Then after the war, we have taken down what was purpose-built. This was true through the 1920s.
A new way to deal with war has been in place since at least WWII and the lead up to it. Since that point, America has dealt with war by building up infrastructure to win the war. That’s just as before but after WWII the war infrastructure never goes away. Since WWII every time we declare a new crisis we add to governmental infrastructure. Through accretion over time more and more power aggregation accrues to government.
There has been a change in our understanding of the nature of war. Before WWII we understood war to be armed combat with a specific enemy for a specific purpose. Who the enemy was and why we fought was specific, articulated, and quantifiable. Massive national mobilization was undertaken but for relatively short time frames. Should we be treating a disease as a war?
If we can use war related actions for non-war things…
The definition of war in America changes at the Great Depression. In his first inauguration FDR framed the depression in terms of a New Deal. Doing so, he demanded wartime powers for the executive branch, in order to solve the crisis. There was a problem with this. There was no actual war. We are simply moving America toward tyranny, strongman rule.
The enemy was an economic situation. This is significant because the U.S. Constitution treats war differently than it does economic situations. We knew the depression was an far reaching, negative economic situation. We also knew what normal looked like. The definition of normal was in terms of employment, prosperity and day to day activity. Should we be treating disease as a war?
The solution FDR implemented was a permanent change in the structure and scope of the regime. After the close of WWII, JFK spoke in his inaugural address, of the cold war. He was unable to define the nature of the of the enemy and the nature of the objective. Instead, he made the declaration we were engaging in a struggle with the common enemies of man. He citations were tyranny, poverty and disease itself.
Did it stop with FDR?
LBJ in his war on poverty made a declaration of war. His enemy was something previously understood as an unchangeable part of the human condition. The definition of victory was the eradication of poverty. But what exactly was meant by the eradication of poverty?
Regan had the war on drugs; Bush had the war on terror. Bush would not even define the nature of the enemy. It turned out very mush to look like FDR’s freedom from fear. What would victory look like? How do we achieve an end to terror?
The mission began to morph from killing Jihadis to regime building around the world. What we got was perpetual war to transform regimes abroad. In these adventures the definition of national interest was not undertaken. Rather, it was a simple assumption. Perhaps most importantly; we got what amounts to a police state here at home. Should we be treating disease as a war?
The war on coronavirus is looking like a Bush style war. We are allowing a massive intrusion of government into our lives. We are enduring an economic shutdown. There are violations of our constitutional and natural rights. We are experiencing a medical martial law.
There is also mission creep and poor definition of our goals. It began as 15 days to flatten the curve. Now it is if it even save one life. That excuse wears thin quickly. The reason is the statement is immoral. Challenge it and it morphs into until there is a vaccine. If that wears it becomes until there are no more outbreaks.
Sure, but what is an outbreak? How many people must sicken before it is an outbreak? And what period of time defines an outbreak? We are not using rational analysis to make policy.
Our politicians like this. If they don’t set goals, if they define nothing they cannot be criticized for not achieving. On the flip side without definition the politicians can extend their totalitarian regime indefinitely.
There is a huge problem with trying to equate something that is not a war to being a war. We need to be clear about what the objective is. What is the purpose of each action? There must be a rational relationship between the objective and the goals. Should we be treating disease as a war? No, no we should not.