By William Tucker
Columnist, In Homeland Security
President Donald Trump announced on March 29 that he was extending the social distancing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention until the end of April. While the President seems keen to offer a specific date for returning the nation to some semblance of normalcy, we have to acknowledge that the date could slip further into the future.
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Just days before his announcement, Trump signed a $2 trillion stimulus package aimed at providing economic support to struggling Americans and businesses affected by the “stay at home” measures enacted by most U.S. states.
$2 Trillion Stimulus Package Is The Largest In US History, Yet It May Not Be Enough
This stimulus package is the largest of its type in U.S. history, yet it may not be enough. We do not have any current evidence to suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic will behave like other coronaviruses and die off in warmer weather. Should the April date for the end of social distancing slip into May or later in the summer, the economic fallout will need continuous management from Washington. Either way, there will be economic troubles ahead.
Although this is considered a recession, or depression in some nations, it is an economic downturn of choice that will have an outsized social impact for years to come. But the other option – ignoring COVID-19 and simply resuming daily life – would carry a significant cost in lives lost to the illness. President Trump, along with numerous other world leaders, is grappling with this dichotomy and neither choice is particularly desirable. But it gets worse.
All Of The International Issues Or Crises Fomenting Before The COVID-19 Pandemic Will Return In Force
Whatever the timeline for returning to business as usual, there will be lingering economic issues. All of the international issues or crises fomenting before the pandemic will return in force. Headlines that dominated the news cycles just a few months ago seem to have disappeared, even though the issues are very much alive.
A daily check of the BBC website, for instance, covers the pandemic in depth, but there has not been a single new article on Brexit. For a nation staring down economic uncertainty since before the outbreak, non-coverage of an issue so profound is astounding.
Brexit will still occur. The trade dispute between the U.S. and China remains unresolved. Civil war continues apace in Syria and Libya. Germany’s economy is declining, throwing the future of the EU in doubt, and numerous other issues that once informed our world still burn beneath the surface.
Now that the world is facing an economic downturn, nations will look to make cuts wherever possible, further exacerbating some of these issues and likely igniting new problems. For instance, some nations have enacted protective measures prohibiting exports of foodstuffs. Numerous nations, even some in the developed world, are net food importers. That makes it necessary for these nations to secure supply chains that provide basic sustenance. How they secure those supply chains will vary, but as economist Otto T. Mallery stated, “If goods don’t cross borders, armies will.”
Diplomatic Negotiations Cost Less Than Sending An Army Abroad
Mallery was not being deterministic because trade or diplomatic negotiations will still occur and work as an arresting factor for hostilities. Such negotiations cost less than sending an army abroad, but diplomacy springing from this new reality will change some international relationships.
Of note, the U.S. indicted Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on narco-terrorism charges, drawing some comparison to the moves the U.S. took against Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega in 1989. Even though the U.S. may not be planning an invasion of Venezuela, the indictment shows that, despite the pandemic and associated problems, other geopolitical issues are still very much alive.
Bargain basements oil prices and food shortages likewise do not bode well for the Venezuelan regime. They again demonstrate that the pandemic will exacerbate previous problems despite the apparent effects of suppressing news of these long-standing issues.
There is still a lot we do not know about what happens after the COVID-19 pandemic because we do not know when it will end. But the former burning issues of the day, since suppressed, will come back to the fore. Coupled with new social issues stemming from the lingering effects the pandemic has had on economics, not only will we see changes in the social order, but those changes will also affect international relationships.
The longer these social distancing measures go on, the more profound the effect internationally.