Welcome to Wasteland: Rising anarchy, a struggle for survival, face masks, a resource shortage, doomsday cults, supply lines broken, healthcare facilities overrun or decimated – a world fractured by calamity and isolated by fear, where the strong preys upon the weak, and everyone is literally armed to the teeth. We’ve seen this movie before – but few of us ever thought it would become a reality in our lifetimes.
We’ve awakened in a different world, one more dystopian or more post-apocalyptic. It is a world few of us now recognize. It’s disease-ridden, cold, and barren with more and more airplanes disappearing from the skies overhead. There is a scent of death in the air – a foul miasma that rode upon the East wind to invade the world’s greatest cities. In many places, highways resemble post-apocalyptic stretches of road leading into abandoned cityscapes. The sound of bustling traffic has been swallowed up by quarantines. Life has moved indoors. Panic is virulent and it’s everywhere.
It’s not Mad Max, except it really is – imports from China have dried up and U.S. stores could see empty store shelves by April.
The crowds in many public places have dissipated or disappeared altogether. People are wearing face- mask and are disdainfully looking at their closest coughing neighbor, as if they were a biological hazard. This landscape isn’t familiar. It’s not the planet Earth any of us knew. In the stores, the most basic of commonplace necessities, like hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and medicines, are suddenly unavailable. No one made any dire announcements of impending shortages – these supplies just inexplicably disappeared. Ever since the outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 exploded in mainland China, product supply lines have been stretched thin or stressed to the breaking point altogether.
About 80 percent of the active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) used to make drugs in the United States come from China. China is the world’s largest manufacturer of bulk drugs and nutritional supplements. But the list of imported goods from China that are used by most of the industrialized world goes way beyond this. All those handy tools, gadgets, electronics and everything in between, from tooth brushes to cosmetics are all manufactured, packaged, and shipped from China. Some time ago, China banned the export of face masks and the raw materials needed to produce them. Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, and Vietnam all followed suit. The world is now woefully unprepared for the spread of a pathogen that appears deadlier than the Spanish Flu of 1918.
Then there’s another unthinkable scenario that could result from a worsening COVID-19 pandemic. It is something few have stopped to ponder or even think about – a nuclear war. China had to downplay the full extent of the crisis in the mainland because it fears a weakened Red Communist State would be ripe encouragement for Hong Kong or Taiwan to rebel. As the epidemic worsens, Israel could perceive Iran as an existential threat and may launch preemptive strikes on that country or vice-versa. North Korea could respond in similar fashion with its estranged southern neighbor South Korea. Nuclear subs, the long main-stay deterrent of the U.S., British, and Russian nuclear arsenals – can’t afford to risk one crew member being sick, since these crews operate in tightly-confined spaces and share a ventilation system. If any nuclear submarine was suddenly taken out of action due to an endemic outbreak of the coronavirus – it could tilt the balance of power and make a nuclear preemptive strike on a country much more likely. Even more so; countries could use low-yield nukes to create radioactive buffer zones between countries to slow the migration of vast numbers of people fleeing an epidemic. Sounds like science-fiction? It might be if Tedros Adhanom, the head of the WHO, hadn’t reiterated “we’re in uncharted territory” with the virus and no one knows which direction it could go.
Coronavirus spreads to U.S. ships: U.S. Navy officials told The Daily Beast that 23 sailors onboard the USS Roosevelt tested positive for COVID-19 and that testing capabilities for the coronavirus are limited.
As the virus continues to spread and military personnel are incapacitated from infected cases, more and more strategic assets of the world’s power-players will fall prey to decommissioning. Such a dramatic tilt of power, resulting from the loss of military assets, could have far-reaching consequences in the geopolitical world. It could re-align nation states with so-called “pandemic-victor” nations or eradicate century-old alliances with the ones still in the throes of the epidemic. Nations could fall, invasions could occur, and destructive weapons could be unleashed – and opponents may be powerless to stop such aggression. The Spanish Flu of 1918 came on the heels of World War I, but this coronavirus pandemic harbors the potential of igniting a different one. It is not beyond the realm of possibility that tactical nuclear weapons could be used to neutralize an epidemic-ridden enemy or low-yield nukes could be deployed to sterilize coronavirus-infected regions on a vast scale.
It is no longer a question of stopping a global pandemic; it may soon come down to a race for survival, or essentially preventing the world from descending into the type of Mad Max war-ravaged wasteland we saw in the movies. World leaders, with the exception of China (who strategically hid the extent and virulence of the coronavirus outbreak for national security reasons), have never fully understood the implications of a pandemic capable of completely paralyzing a country. Western leaders were either indifferent, damnably dubious, or appeared to be more worried about financial markets than they were about saving their own respective countries. Now; it’s too late. The virus has spread, thousands have been infected, and healthcare systems across the globe are in grave danger of crashing under the strain of unprecedented case-loads.
Developing a vaccine now against the SARS-CoV-2 outbreak has become a national security priority for every country – and the first nation to successfully accomplish this feat will not only save its citizenry; it may very well emerge as the global leader of the next century.