Pandemic Hardening Can Make America Great

After September 11, we began the long process of trying to build a society that would be hardened against massive terror attacks. Airports became grueling fortresses in which shoes, bottled water, and personal dignity had no place. A vast intelligence infrastructure was built to violate privacy. But the big decisions were never made. Instead, America became more vulnerable than ever to Islamic terrorism.

That’s why President Trump ran on, among other things, a travel ban from terrorist nations.

As the nation undergoes another shock, we are going to have to think about how to rebuild our society so that it will be hardened against another pandemic. That is going to require hard choices beyond throwing more money at the same alphabet soup government agencies that failed to protect us.

There are three key areas to think about: biological security, urban living, and domestic manufacturing.

The coronavirus, like September 11, was primarily a national security failure. The massive alphabet soup of government agencies, from the CDC to the FDA to the State Department to the CIA failed to correctly assess the problem, take action, coordinate, and keep the nation safe from an external threat.

The nature of the threat on September 11 flew under the radar because it was too big for security agencies and too small for the military, it didn’t fit the shape of what the FBI or Joint Chiefs did. And so we began the task of transforming both the military and security agencies into fitting that shape.

The Department of Homeland Security, in theory the sort of entity that might tackle multifaceted threats, which would include a pandemic, has failed to live up to expectations of basic competence.

The CDC meanwhile spends so much of its focus on social issues that it’s unfit for the job.

After the coronavirus, we will need a national security agency capable of tackling a pandemic. It will need to have intelligence gathering abilities, veto power over immigration, and the ability to quickly commandeer resources to meet a foreign disease outbreak by testing and quarantining suspects. And it must be able to plan both defensive and offensive biowarfare against hostile entities like the PRC.

Call it the Biological Security Agency.

Coronavirus took off in this country because the State Department was allowed to take the lead and it treated the virus not as a threat, but a transportation issue. Henceforth, pandemics must be the responsibility of a national security agency able to evaluate the threat and shut down travel. It should be tasked with maintaining stockpiles of medicines, protective clothing, and other resources needed to meet a biological warfare attack. Even if that’s not what the coronavirus was, it will come one day.

We need to be ready with a national security response to biological warfare.

Hardening America against a pandemic also requires rethinking the blue model. Dense urban areas can’t be defended against biological warfare. The farce of social distancing in New York City’s crowded subways is a structural problem. The denser an urban area is, the more impossible it is to maintain social distance. Density pushes out cars and sends price signals that force the maximum number of people into the same residential, and commercial areas, which are connected by crowded public transportation.

Before the coronavirus struck, progressive policy goals included upping urban density, eliminating single-family zoning, reducing lot size, annexing suburbs to cities, replacing cars with public transit, and using mass migration to boost the political power of cities at the expense of rural and suburban areas.

The coming of theC coronavirus to New York City has made it all too obvious that’s a death sentence.

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