‘It’s Time To Put A Military Officer In Charge Of Fight Against Coronavirus in US’

“A more centralized command structure is needed”

DESPARDES — Last week we telegraphed three insights on pandemic’s impact on the situation across the Atlantic, and how it is making some thought-leaders look at it and the way forward.

That no other than Henry Kissinger and Mikhail Gorbachev wrote/spoke on the pandemic carries weight. Add to it Foreign Affairs take on how Trump’s Administration has been handling the coronavirus crisis (with a hot potato on a trapeze). Coronavirus deaths have topped 14,600 in US, and New York reports single highest day toll. Projections in the worst-case scenario say 200,000 could die due to the pandemic.

On Tuesday, a solution-centric opinion piece by someone who has previously handled national calamities appeared in the Forbes magazine, which a Pakistani defense official says is a good read also “for military bashers in Pakistan”. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as he’s not authorized to comment officially.

The pandemic has altered the global order of business, Gorbachev and Kissinger have said so, as world leaders wrest with it trying to resurrect the “predictability & control” subroutines — hallmark of modern economy backed by democracy, apparently gone haywire.

The outbreak as it developed into a pandemic within the band covering 30 degree and 50 degree north latitude is having a spillover effect south of the patch, and it is no different as experts predict with time lag it could be similar or worse. Things have virtually stopped bottom up globally. Social distancing, isolation are becoming a “new normal” for “coexistence” home-to-home, streets-to-streets, etc.

Maybe it is time we took the clear fact that we are at war seriously at the national level, says Frank Kendall, the former Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics in the Obama administration. “We already have over 10,000 casualties. The numbers are increasing exponentially, and we will be talking about multiple tens of thousands of casualties in a matter of days. Our economy has come to a crashing halt and we don’t know when we can get it going again”.

The narrative holds true in the region too, say some observers, “specially for emerging economies in South Asia. Include the Middle East also”.

Why Kendall’s view carries weight? He was deeply involved in campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq for several years and supported the responses to hurricane Sandy and to the Ebola crisis. None of those operations rose to the scale needed in the fight against COVID-19, Kendall writes, “but they taught me a lot about how one should manage large complex operations under stress”.

In his view, published in the Forbes, “The first thing one needs in a war is an effective operational commander with a clear mission and lines of authority. We have an institution in the United States that develops and nurtures people who know how to command in a dynamic stressful environment at scale. It’s time to take the most capable senior leader in the military we can find and put him in charge of the national level effort to fight COVID -19. That means pulling a four-star level General or Admiral from whatever he is doing and making him or her our national level operational commander.” A more centralized command structure is needed, he argues.

Kendall agrees that this will be disruptive of course, “but is there a more important mission right now than saving American lives and our economy?”, Kendall adds. This is exactly what the Pakistani official meant to remind the critics about why the military is proactive 360 degree, and would continue. More here…