Biden’s Covid-19 diplomacy: Trump’s era of isolationism is over

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DR. ZEKEH GBOROKUMA is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morgan State University and Founder, Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc.

By Zekeh S. Gbotokuma, Ph. D.

On the very first day of Joe Biden’s presidency on January 20, 2021, it was clear that the 46th POTUS was ready to restore the U.S. global leadership that the Trump administration has destroyed. President Biden signed 17 Executive Orders (EO), dealing, among others, with the Pandemic, Immigration, Climate Change, and Economy. The Eos on the Pandemic and Climate Change are of utmost importance and fiercely urgent to overcome the country’s isolationism, thereby reclaiming the status of the U.S. President as the leader of the free world. Bringing Covid-19 under control is Biden’s first priority. It is almost impossible to “Build Back Better” and accomplish many other things unless and until Covid-19 is over, not only in the U.S. but also in the world. So far the U.S. has claimed the lion’s share of cases (24 million+) and deaths (400,000+) as of January 20, 2021, according to CDC and Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, there are more than 97 million cases and more than 2 million deaths. This is a global problem that calls for global solutions. That is why the Biden administration is committed to fighting Covid-19 domestically and globally, with science, not political science. To this end, one of Biden’s original Eos on which I would like to focus is the one that deals with Covid-19.

In one of Biden’s original presidential tweet he wrote, “Wearing masks isn’t a partisan issue – it’s a patriotic act that can save countless lives. That why I signed an executive order today issuing a mask mandate on federal property. It’s time to mask up, America” (President Biden @POTUS). CNN reported that the EO “creates the position of COVID-19 response coordinator and restores the Directorate for Global Health Security and Biodefense, a team in charge of the pandemic response, within the National Security Council. More important, the EO reverses Trump’s decision to remove the U.S. from the World Health Organization.

Biden’s EO is a positive sign that COVID-19 is transforming the way we think, talk about, and deal with healthcare in the USA, consistent with the Affordable Care Act of 2010, as well as globally, consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG #3), “To ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.” To this end, the international community must work together, consistent with the UN Global Goals, especially the goal to “Revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development” (SDG #17). 

It is unfortunate that at this critical time when the world should be united in the fight against COVID-19 that has affected millions of people, the Trump administration decided to suspend the U.S. funding to the WHO. It is an understatement to say as Bill Gates did through a tweet, that “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of COVID-19 and if that work stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever” (Bill Gates @BillGates, April 15, 2020). 

Consistent with its isolationist move to halt funding to the WHO, the Trump administration announced “it would not join an international coalition [of about 170 countries] to find and distribute a Covid-19 vaccine worldwide due to the group’s association with the World Health Organization,Forbes’ Tommy Beer wrote in a September 2, 2020 article. GAVI – The Global Vaccine Alliance administers COVAX, “a co-lead by three entities: The World Health Organization, GAVI-The Global Vaccine Alliance, and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations” – CEPI (See Mark Goldberg, “When COVID-19 Vaccine is Ready, the COVAX Facility Will Bring It to the World’s Population.” UN DISPATCH, Aug 31, 2020). As a global initiative, COVAX is “aimed at working with vaccine manufacturers to provide countries worldwide equitable access to safe and effective vaccines,” according to WHO. 

Trump’s coronavirus denialism and his administration’s fiasco in handling this global pandemic has contributed to the U.S. loss of global leadership and negative image. This is apparent in the Pew Research Center’s survey of Global Attitudes & Trends. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, “U.S. IMAGE PLUMMETS INTERNATIONALLY AS MOST SAY COUNTRY HAS HANDLED CORONAVIRUS BADLY. All publics surveyed rank the U.S. coronavirus response lowest,” Richard Wike et al. wrote in 2020. Thirteen developed countries that Pew surveyed were unanimous in agreeing that the U.S. has not done a good job. These countries are mostly G7 countries and U.S. allies, namely: Spain, Italy, Canada, UK, Sweden, France, Japan, Australia, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, and South Korea. In average, only 15% of them said that the U.S. has done a good job. This is like scoring 15 points out of 100 on a major test. Spain is the country that gave the U.S. the highest score, i.e., 20 out of 100, which is still an F grade. Denmark and South Korea gave the lowest scores, or 7 and 6, respectively. 

It is regrettable and saddening to note that the Trump administration’s fiasco in handling the Coronavirus pandemic has led the European allies to lose trust in the USA. More particularly, the fiasco has led Europeans to question the validity of American Exceptionalism at this critical moment. In other words, 

The coronavirus pandemic is shaking bedrock assumptions about U.S. exceptionalism. This is perhaps the first global crisis in more than a century where no one is even looking for Washington to lead. […]. And in the United States, it [COVID-19] has exposed two great weaknesses that, in the eyes of many Europeans, have compounded one another: the erratic leadership of Mr. Trump, who has devalued expertise and often refused to follow the advice of his scientific advisers, and the absence of a robust public health care (my emphasis) system and social safety net (Katrin Bennhold, “Sadness and Disbelief From a World Missing American Leadership” The New York Times, Apr 23, 2020).

In President Obama’s virtual commencement 2020 speeches, he also criticized his successor’s mishandling of the pandemic as follows, “More than anything, this pandemic has fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing. […] A lot of them aren’t even pretending to be in charge.” Inarguably, Obama’s criticism is also a strong defense of the Affordable Care Act that Trump and his fellow Republicans have done everything to dismantle. Hopefully the U.S. Supreme Court and the Biden administration will do the right thing in a concerted effort to save humanity through the Covid-19 diplomacy.

DR. ZEKEH GBOROKUMA is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Morgan State University and Founder, Polyglots in Action for Diversity, Inc. He is the author/editor of numerous publications, the most recent of which is DEMOCRACY AND DEMOGRAPHICS IN THE USA: The Squad’s Roadmap to Transform the Blue Wave into a Blue Tsunami (Amazon Kindle, November 2020)

CONTACT: Zekeh.Gbotokuma@morgan.edu zekehgbotokuma@gmail.com 

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