In Case You Didn’t Notice, COVID Is A National Security Threat

The lawyers can't clean up the mess left by the President's sudden incapacity.

The mismanagement of the COVID epidemic is a national security threat, and it’s not just because the Joint Chiefs of Staff are now quarantining, after the vice commandant of the Coast Guard tested positive. Nor is it the risk to military readiness, as dramatized by the USS Theodore Roosevelt, several months ago. We also have a problem with the chain of command.

The current occupant of the Oval Office is back at the White House. He is taking several treatments, at least one of which is still experimental, and we do not know the possible interactions among the treatments. One of them, the steroid Dexamethasone, has been limited to people in great distress, in part because of the known side effects, including mania and other mental impairments. Therefore, we have reasons to doubt how compos mentis Trump is, right now. It’s hard to separate his normally reckless behavior from what might be a consequence of his medication. His joy ride to wave at supporters, his maskless balcony performance after returning to the White House, and his pledge to return to the campaign trail, including participating in the debates, are not reassuring.

We also have strong reasons to believe that he is headed toward a debilitating or incapacitating crash. We don’t know for sure at what point his first positive test occurred. However, we do know that the timeline of COVID-19 infection usually includes a sudden decline. There are also reasons to question how long his medications will sustain him. If any of them are withdrawn, because doctors deem it unsafe to continue the current regiment (and Trump listens to them), what will happen? Will any of these treatments lose their ability to sustain his current level of activity and giddy mood, pulling the rug out from under him? Are there delayed side effects, individually or in combination?

In short, we don’t know how stable the leader of a nuclear-armed superpower is, and we can’t be sure if he is headed for a sudden decline. We know it. Our allies know it. Our adversaries know it.

Meanwhile, his immediate successor is campaigning. We have good reasons to doubt Pence’s seriousness about taking precautions, given his past willingness to follow Republican non-precautions.

We’ve seen Trump be cavalier about national security before, such as blabbing secrets to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador, abruptly abandoning our Kurdish allies, prematurely declaring victory over ISIS, and yanking American troops out of Europe. The last few days are the logical culmination of that recklessness. They are too obvious to ignore, unless you have so much investment in having him as a leader that you are willing to live with the cognitive dissonance required. Unfortunately, that statement describes a lot of Americans.

If the worst happens, the Trump family and their lawyers will not be able to clean up the mess. National security problems require collective effort — not just to deal with crises when they occur, but to prevent them in the first place.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, COVID-19, Presidency,
Kingdaddy
About Kingdaddy
Kingdaddy is returning to political blogging after a long hiatus. For several years, he wrote about national security affairs at his blog, Arms and Influence, under the same pseudonym. He currently lives in Colorado, where he is still awestruck at all the natural beauty here. He has a Ph.D in political science that is oddly useful in his day job.

Comments

  1. Joe says:

    We have good reasons to doubt Pence’s seriousness about taking precautions

    Apparently, Pence is balking at the precautions the debate sponsor wants to impose by objecting to the plexiglass on his side of the debate stage tomorrow night. I fear this is a preview to Trump in the next debate objecting to anything that might reduce risk on the premise that he is now immune and any contrary action Biden takes will suggest weakness. It’s up to the sponsor now to shut Pence/Trump down on this.

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  2. CSK says:

    “We’ve seen Trump be cavalier about national security before…” You forgot the time when he tweeted that we could all sleep well because the nuclear threat from North Korea had been ended forever.

    Not your fault. Listing all the occasions on which Trump has been cavalier about national security would require a blog post the length of War and Peace.

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  3. In short, we don’t know how stable the leader of a nuclear-armed superpower is

    And we have not known for almost 4 years.

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  4. Kingdaddy says:

    @CSK: Right. It was a small number of examples, from a very large set.

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  5. Kathy says:

    However, we do know that the timeline of COVID-19 infection usually includes a sudden decline. There are also reasons to question how long his medications will sustain him.

    The antibody cocktail he was given Regeneron’s REGN-COV2, might be a game changer. There’s little information available, as it is not yet completed phase 3 trials. Before any monoclonal antibody therapies were produced for COVID-19, there was speculation they could also serve in a preventive capacity. as I understand, this is also being trialed.

    Besides not yet knowing much about this treatment, availability is very limited even for compassionate use. Assuming it gets approval, availability will still be limited until manufacturing gets going, and who knows what it will cost.

    The bottom line is even if this treatment works very well, it won’t be available to most people afflicted with COVID-19 for months, and even when it is available many won’t be able to afford it. It also won’t work equally well in all patients, no drug ever does.

    So, what Trump’s experience may be, assuming it’s not that bad, won’t be the same experience of COVID-19 most people will have.

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  6. Kylopod says:

    Like a lot of liberals, I am prone to thinking of the American conservative movement as a two-tiered system consisting of con artists who know exactly what they’re doing and the suckers who follow them. But the line between the two isn’t as bright as we often assume: the grifters can also be the grifted. Herman Cain is dying proof of that.

    It goes back to one of the more underappreciated points in Julian Sanchez’s much-quoted 2010 essay accusing the conservative movement of “epistemic closure.” The key section is here:

    One of the more striking features of the contemporary conservative movement is the extent to which it has been moving toward epistemic closure. Reality is defined by a multimedia array of interconnected and cross promoting conservative blogs, radio programs, magazines, and of course, Fox News. Whatever conflicts with that reality can be dismissed out of hand because it comes from the liberal media, and is therefore ipso facto not to be trusted. (How do you know they’re liberal? Well, they disagree with the conservative media!) …. Internal criticism is then especially problematic, because it threatens the hermetic seal. It’s not just that any particular criticism might have to be taken seriously coming from a fellow conservative. Rather, it’s that anything that breaks down the tacit equivalence between “critic of conservatives and “wicked liberal smear artist” undermines the effectiveness of the entire information filter.

    Notice that Sanchez here isn’t talking about “the masses” who eat up the bile coming from Fox News, Limbaugh, Breitbart, and so forth. He’s talking about the elites–the politicians, the political operatives, the conservative media people, the think-tankers. Essentially, they’ve come to believe their own BS because they live in that world.

    The funny thing is, before this year this fact was never quite as visible since the conservative elites rarely faced any personal consequences to the nonsense they spewed. Global warming for instance wasn’t costing them their lives or jobs–at least not then and there. Covid-19 is a whole nother ballpark. We see it playing out in front of us. Trump and Pence and even GOP donors are all massive liars, but to some extent they really believe some of their own rhetoric about Covid being a hoax (or at least overhyped) and masks being not as crucial as “the alarmists” are saying. That’s something we have to come to terms with. The lunatics really are driving the bus.

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  7. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: This is why my view is: if any of these idiots start requiring medical help, dump them at the back of the line. Our medical efforts should go to assist people who took caution, did what they were supposed to do, socially distanced, washed their hands, and still ended up catching COVID through Fate, happenstance, or plain bad luck.

    Helping out Trump and his flamboyantly irresponsible followers is like treating a drunk driver while ignoring the other people who were driven into in the crash. They’re more important.

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  8. Nightcrawler says:

    @Kylopod:

    before this year this fact was never quite as visible since the conservative elites rarely faced any personal consequences to the nonsense they spewed. Global warming for instance wasn’t costing them their lives or jobs–at least not then and there. Covid-19 is a whole nother ballpark. We see it playing out in front of us.

    COVID-19 is the conservative movement’s Chernobyl. They can keep fooling DT’s core supporters, but not the public at large.

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  9. Joe says:

    @Kathy:

    Besides not yet knowing much about this treatment, availability is very limited even for compassionate use.

    I assure you that even if convalescent Trump demonstrably exposes and infects fellow debater Biden, it won’t be available for Biden.

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  10. inhumans99 says:

    @Joe:

    Naw…Biden is a long-term Senator/Ex VP, he has connections and has folks who take him to the right places/people to get top notch treatment. Anyway, do you really think Biden would entrust the same doctors who are covering for Trump to his healthcare, no way he does that. Biden sees the doctors around Trump frittering away any credibility they have regarding treating Covid all to mollify a GOP that is for some reason still deathly scared of the base taking away any power the GOP has in D.C..

    Also, in another thread it was noted that Trump’s priorities were laid bare, negotiating with Pelosi to help states get needed relief funds is a no go but rushing through a SC Justice nomination is now the focus. I feel that very soon there will be a day of reckoning for the GOP and their base and it will be ugly (like Civil way brother fighting against brother ugly).

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  11. Michael Reynolds says:

    If I were Putin, and I had ambitions for the Baltic countries, this is when I’d do it. We don’t have the forces in place to do much of anything if he goes in hard and fast, and can avoid really early detection. With our current ‘government’ there’s no chance we’d be able to mobilize support and gear up on the scene. We could move naval forces in but the Baltic Sea is no place for aircraft carriers. We’d be using air bases the host countries might not allow. NATO or not I’m not convinced Germans will die for Estonia. Not that there’s any chance of that because Putin’s poodle is still POTUS.

    Things just get worse for Putin from here on with Biden in the WH. His economy is in the toilet, he’s tied down in Ukraine and now in Azerbaijan. He may not know it but he’s reached his high water mark. It’s now or never. Be China’s bootlicks.

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  12. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Kathy: I recently read that the cocktail was being trialed by 245 participants, that # would be consistent with phase 1/2 trials (emphasis on safety versus efficacy). Later tonight I’ll try to find the official disclosure (NIH) documents.

  13. Kathy says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    I could swear I read somewhere they were moving or had moved into phase 3, but I can easily be mistaken.

  14. JohnSF says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Maybe. But ultra risky.
    And Putin rides the edge at times, but also tries to manage risk: e.g. the “implausible deniability” of the “Little Green Men” in Crimea, similar in Georgian intervention.

    – NATO military structure is set up so that one state can’t easily block a response; Germany would have to be willing to collapse NATO to do so.
    – Putting a ground assault into Estonia runs into the teeth of a British Royal Regiment of Fusiliers battalion, plus supporting Challenger MBT’s. Plus Danish supporting forces.
    As well as the Estonian Army (2 brigades including 2 artillery battalions).
    And the NATO BAP air defenses.

    That’s a lot more serious than bullying Ukraine or Georgia: that’s the sort of force that can do a lot of damage. i.e. destruction of whole brigades if you’re an unlucky Russian.

    The Russians would probably win if they pushed hard, but pushing that hard and over a prolonged period means containment to Estonia alone is unlikely.
    War theater expands to the rest of the Baltics is pretty certain.
    Theater expands to Finland and Poland (and Swedish air/naval) highly likely.

    That’s a hell of a gamble.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JohnSF:
    Putin gambled and won on Trump. He may be willing to risk. He’s gotten away with assassination attempts inside the UK. Granted he’s got stuff going on – Ukraine, Syria, possibly helping Armenia. But he’s a frisky little fucker. Not really strategically smart, aside from being a great spy, but bold.

    I have no idea whether his ambition lies in that direction. But warm water ports and all that. It’s not just the Germans I doubt would fight for the Baltics. Italy? Greece? Turkey? WTF do they care if what they may see as an improvident move by NATO gets reverted to previous ownership?

    For that matter will the Brits be ready to risk an even chiller Dunkirk? And if Trump is still POTUS we’d veto NATO involvement, there is no way in hell Trump would fight Putin over the Baltics.

  16. JohnMcC says:

    @Michael Reynolds: No opinion about the potential Russian movement into Baltics but concur totally that Estonia et al are never far from Putin’s thoughts. His father was killed by Nazi-sympathizers in Estonia during ‘the war’ and he was raised in Leningrad.

  17. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Kathy:
    I think I’ve found the trial that you may be referring to. It’s designator is NCT04426695, it is a phase 1/2/3 trial (that is, that it appears that same subjects are used throughout, just the measurements change. It would appear that this trial enlists 2970 participants and sifts them into 8 cohorts. The principle (and focused) measurement is the level of viral shedding.

    However, when Chris Cuomo questioned the Regeneron CEO a few days ago about the criteria for FDA Compassionate Use Authorization (which was provided to Dr. Conley) allowing him to acquire the cocktail from Regeneron, the CEO said that “Compassionate Use” is a euphemism for a single-patient clinical trial. So nothing should be read into the phrase “Compassionate Use authorization” relative to Trumps medical state. Actually, the FDA has specific guidelines regarding the patients medical state to authorize Compassionate Use – in particular patient must be in severe and/or immediate life-threatening condition.

    So either Trump is in a single-patient (and probably undocumented) trial or he is one of the patients in the current trial that has a scheduled completion date of Jan 25 2020.