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Has the US lost control of the pandemic?

LOOK at the figures and what the Americans have been doing, and you decide if the United States has become that proverbial frog being boiled alive, not realizing its quagmire until it’s too late.

At the start of March, the US had 73 Covid-19 cases; by the end of this week, there will most likely be a million Americans infected (960,651 the other day). Only six Americans died from the disease on March 1; as of the other day, 54,256 did. (We have our 7,294 cases and 494 deaths so far.) Think about it: if just a third of 960,651 infected with the disease get to infect more people, how can the US ever get to control its spread?

The US now is the Sickest Man of the world, given the most infected citizens, which account for a third of the 2,920,954 human beings now afflicted with the coronavirus.

The leadership of the US government, embodied by President Donald Trump, is panicking at the same time that it is deluding itself that the disease will just go away. Or dreaming that some magic vaccine will be invented soon, or the Lysol kind of disinfectant will be found to be useful in fighting it by simply ingesting it, as its president remarked. Only a few cities — New York and Chicago — have been locked down in the way Wuhan was when it had only 20,000 cases.

Cases of and deaths due to Covid-19 as of April 26 SOURCE: JOHNS HOPKINS

Some states have even been loosening up their stay-at-home suggestions and would allow even massage parlors to open next week. Americans in the Midwest are protesting in the streets that their inalienable rights are being violated with some states’ orders to close down enterprises. State governors have been quarreling with the President of the United States over supplies and equipment to fight the epidemic. Some 26 million Americans — more than the population of Australia — are officially unemployed.

The US is certainly demonstrating that democracy isn’t just overrated; it is even dangerous to people’s health and lives.

A big part of the US problem is hubris, a psychological disease even a Filipino American has caught, when he commented on my Facebook post March 28 that expressed my worry over the steep rise of Covid-19 cases there at that time:

“This is America, the most powerful country on earth. We will survive. We have the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) the best health regulating agency in the world. Our healthcare systems may not be perfect but we are 10x better than my home country, the Philippines. The people here are very proactive, disciplined and obedient to government policies.

“The preventative measures set in place before the actual crisis occurred are outstanding. My county in the San Francisco Bay area was the first to declare ‘shelter at home,’ even without a single confirmed case unlike your health department. FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) is mobilized. The National Guards are 24/7 rotating on duty. Economic stimulus checks will be started to be distributed next week. Mortgage relief, student loan relief, unemployment benefits are on the dot… We have the best and the brightest scientists in the world with so much resources. I feel way safer here than in ‘Pinas.”

So much for colonial mentality — or wishful thinking.

But this column is certainly not one of schadenfreude, although I am not such a big fan of the US: it has been the hegemonic imperialist power in the era of hyper-capitalism, which in the postwar era waged 19 wars outside of its borders that by one estimate killed 12 million non-Caucasian peoples.

If America’s loss of control over the coronavirus pandemic leads to its steep economic fall, we will suffer, thanks to our elites’ yoking of the economy to that of the US since it colonized us. In 2019, the US was still the biggest importer of Philippine products and fourth largest exporter to our markets. Probably if somebody with President Duterte’s insight into world affairs had been president in 2010, we might have had a more balanced trade structure, with China on the same level with the US.

We would easily survive a sudden downturn of US exports to the Philippines. But a sudden cutting or even a reduction by half of our exports to that country — which would likely happen with the meltdown of the US economy because of the pandemic — would gouge out a huge chunk of our manufacturing and service industries.

The US still accounts for the bulk of our business-process outsourcing industry, which has been the engine for the boom in retail and restaurant markets in the past several years, as this placed a lot of purchasing power in the hands of the younger generation. In 2008, several of the US biggest financial institutions went belly up — triggering a world financial crisis. What if not just its banks but its manufacturing backbone goes under?

More than the impact of a fall of the US economy on ours though, what could be worrying is the sudden decline of the US as hegemonic superpower. While the US has for most of the last century ridden roughshod over the rest of the world and exploited the developing countries, history has shown that the fall of any empire has created so much chaos, as in the classic case of the fall of the Roman empire leading to the Dark Ages.

The epicenter of the chaos from the fall of the US would be the Middle East because it had dismantled the authoritarian but stable regimes, with the democratic systems that replaced these proving to be disasters as in the case of Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya. Without the armed might and money of the US, a tsunami of Islamic fundamentalist movements would overwhelm the region.

For all its military and technological prowess, Israel is still dependent on the US, which has been giving it an average of $3 billion annually since 1997 to this day. If that ends, its old Arab enemies would be tempted to invade the tiny country as they did in 1967 — and a desperate Israel would retaliate with its nuclear arsenal.

We probably should be praying that North Korea’s dictator Kim Jong Il doesn’t recover from his alleged heart surgery: only the US is standing between this nut who has at least 20 nuclear bombs at his disposal and South Korea.

That its three nuclear-powered attack carriers had to go to port because its sailors got infected with Covid-19 is certainly emblematic of the dangerous quagmire the US is in now.

In short, the US had appointed itself as the world’s policeman since the end of the last world war. While this facilitated its extraction of wealth in different ways from developing countries, it was after all the policeman that kept order.

What happens now if the policeman is gravely ill, with neither China nor Russia having the appetite to assume that role?

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