Members and Friends:
The Covid Pandemic
The major event of the past two years was the Covid Pandemic. When the first news broke about a new virus that had spread from China in December 2019 one of my friends opined that this was potentially a worldwide epidemic, called a “pandemic”, a word I had seldom heard used. He continued to say it could have catastrophic effects on all aspects of global life, comparable to the plagues of the last century but potentially far worse because of the huge increase in mobility between peoples around the world. His comments were very perspective. 2020 saw the spread of the disease throughout the world, but with the remarkable development of vaccines, 2021 saw the inoculation of millions of people and the beginnings of recovery from it effects.
Of the millions of words since written about this disease, the best conclusion I have heard was by Holman Jenkins who stated, “…Why similarly situation countries, even Nordic neighbors, varied so widely in their actions to counter the Covid 19 virus… each went their own separate ways because there was no standard solution or “best practice” to converge on because none has been found. Once this particular virus began spreading outward from a major city in China, it was perhaps fated to take up global residence in human and animal populations regardless of what we hoped to do about it.”
In summary, Covid 19 and related offspring (such as Omicron) have become an epidemic and will be with us for a long time and we have to learn to live with it, like the flu. It does not mean that worldwide medical and public health officials should not stop trying to ameliorate the tragic effects of the virus, just that we should all get on with our lives and not shut down the world because of it.
In its forecast for 2022, Tom Standage, the Editor of The World Ahead issue of The Economist ranked the clash between autocracies and democratic governments as the primary issue now confronting the world. It is not that this “Clash of Civilizations” as famously called by Samuel Huntington in 1992 is not new, it is because Xi Jan Ping, the de facto rule of China, has announced his intentions to achieve China’s dominance in Asia and beyond and taken many actions to achieve this objective. The “Belt and Road Initiative”, the militarization of the South China Sea atolls and their “fishing fleet” and the effective takeover of Hong Kong have been achieved without the use of active military conflict. Xi’s ultimate objective is to “reunite” Taiwan as a province of China. This would be a tragic defeat for democracy.
Dictators who have achieved their positions through the elimination of any opposition by any means required, including murder, will use the same techniques to remain in their position, realizing that they would likely be deposed by the same methods. In the case of China and Russia, both countries have developed powerful military forces which are under their control. With the possession of nuclear arsenals, any escalation of military conflicts could be catastrophic. The potential was vividly described in ADM Stavridis’ novel, 2034.
The solution developed during the “Cold War” between Russia and the West for twenty years following WW II was called “Mutual Assured Destruction” or “MAD”. During this extended period situations evolved… economics and leaders changed, populations became more educated and economic ties between countries created positive deterrents. This now appears to be the most likely and probably the outcome that can be achieved.
Alliances of Democratic Countries
As China’s economy has rapidly grown to a level essentially equal to the US and with a population ( i.e.) its potential market) four times greater, China has been able to use economic measures as a major tool to achieve its objectives. However, the collective economies of the major democracies considerably outweigh China’s. The challenge is to be able to utilize this advantage. The best response is to create an organization of countries that share our values and objectives.
The concept of the US and other countries relinquishing any aspect of their own sovereignty is not a popular idea, but it certainly has proven its value in organizations like NATO which was formed to counter the specific threats from the Soviet Union, which are still very much alive under Vladimir Putin. The US historically has had a strong isolationist segment of its population as evidenced by its reluctance to enter WWI and WWII and the unsuccessful attempts to preserve or establish democratic governments in Korea, Viet Nam and most recently Afghanistan. President Trump recognized this widespread opinion which largely contributed to his election in 2016 and “America First” or “MAGA” became the core theme of his presidency. The term “Globalism” became an anathema. Previous international agreements, such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership were scrapped, as being not in American economic interests
New International Alliances
However, this solution to defend and spread democratic values has been recognized and implemented by several Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) and think tanks, including The Alliance of Democracies, the Atlantic Council, the Alliance for Securing Democracies, and others. The Biden administration has adopted this approach and has entered into a New Atlantic Charter Initiative with the United Kingdom and recently organized a two-day virtual meeting called the Summit of Democracies. These are not binding treaties but are a step in the right direction.
The Foundation of International Freedom supports these organizations which have the intellectual and financial assets to implement these actions. Since its founding in 2008, the mission of the Foundation has been to defend and spread the core values of Western civilization. That year I wrote an essay calling for the creation of the Organization of Free Countries, a new international group of countries that shared these core values. This was intended to be an alternative body to the United Nations, which includes every country in the world, the majority of which are autocracies.
We remain globalists, but not to the detriment of American economic interests. Our economy is a key component of our power, and the government should monitor and restrict transfers of intellectual property and other assets that empower our competitors. The greatest power of the United States, and other countries of the Free World, is that our core values are for the inherent rights of the individual. This is the reason that people from all over the world seek to live in countries where these rights are protected.
We thank you for your continued support and extend our best wishes for the New Year.
Byron Kahrs Varme