As America struggles to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, one has to wonder how we allowed ourselves to become so dependent on China for critically important pharmaceutics. This didn’t happen overnight. For more than two decades America has been off-shoring our pharmaceutical manufacturing capabilities. This is a serious national security problem.
A Good War highly recommends you read Rosemary Gibson’s article.
“America’s dependence on China for antibiotics and other medicines has been steadily rising. If China shuts the door on exports, military and civilian hospitals would cease to function within months.”
“This dependence became evident when the FDA inspected a factory in China in 2015 that made multiple key ingredients for prescription drugs. Sixty-one complaints from commercial customers reported products lacked full-potency and contained impurities. FDA inspectors spent a week at the plant and ended up banning 29 products from the U.S. for serious breaches of standards. But because the FDA was so concerned about shortages of antibiotics and chemotherapies for cancer treatment, it exempted 14 products from its own ban.”
I remember the first time I thought about World War III. It was October 22, 1962. As President John Kennedy addressed the nation about the “unmistakable evidence” of nuclear-tipped Soviet missiles in Cuba, my dad whispered to my mom, “This may be World War III.”
Thankfully, Dad was wrong. But during the first two decades of my military service, the possibility of WWIII between the U.S. and the Soviets remained a serious threat until the collapse of the Soviet empire. By the time I became a professor and department chairman at the National War College (NWC) in 1998, I had become convinced that the most serious threat to national security was not Russian or Chinese missiles, but a pandemic — either man-made or naturally occurring. I was so convinced, I hired Dr. Robert Kadlec — the first physician to serve on the faculty at NWC. Several of the “old cold warriors” on the faculty could not understand. They asked, “What is he going to do? Give us flu shots?” (Dr. Kadlec continued his work on the national-security aspects of pandemic preparedness during two tours on the National Security Council, and he now serves as the assistant secretary of preparedness and response at the Department of Health and Human Services.)
Since the 1970s, scholars have defined national security with the acronym DIME: diplomacy, intelligence, military, and economics. (With the onset of the information age, some modified it to intelligence/information.) During the past several decades, many of my colleagues in the biosecurity and public-health communities, plus a bipartisan group of political leaders including senators Bob Graham (D., Fla.), Jim Talent (R., Mo.), Gary Hart (D., Colo.), Richard Burr (R., N.C.), and Joe Lieberman (I., Conn.), have argued to include public health as a key element in national security. Unfortunately, most national leaders failed to listen. I suspect that may be changing, albeit, a bit late.
Not since WWII have all Americans been engaged in a war requiring a national mobilization. Not only did 12 million serve in uniform, but virtually every man, woman, and child in America was involved in one way or another. From war-bond drives, victory gardens, and ration cards, to women taking on completely new roles outside the home — building airplanes, tanks, and battleships — the entire nation participated in a united effort.
Compare that with the nearly two decades following 9/11. Shortly after that tragic day, President Bush told Americans, “Go back to the malls.” Understandable at the time. We could not let 19 hijackers destroy our economy. But as the war on terrorism dragged on, only the military and their families made the sacrifices. Less than a fraction of 1 percent of the U.S. population have been asked to sacrifice.
Suddenly, everything has changed. We are once again back to a reality like that of 1943. All Americans are once again involved. WWIII has begun. And it is not just a war against COVID-19, it is a war against infectious disease. WWIII will be a “good war” — a war between the human race and infectious diseases.
We created A Good War to help inform you and your family during the epic battle against COVID-19. America’s top public health leaders will be among the contributors, along with heroes working on the frontlines.
I am Randy Larsen. For the past 25 years, I have held various executive positions, inside and outside of government, working with my fellow public health warriors to try and convince America’s leaders that public health preparedness is a critical element of national security.
I have been working with Jay Lavender since 2008. Jay is a writer and producer with a great passion for protecting America’s national security. For the past dozen years, we have been telling stories in film and print celebrating unsung heroes.
Jay and I are honored to be working with a world-class team to edit this site and produce the podcast, A Good War. Our mission is to help tell the inspiring stories of public health heroes—past and present—in the battles between the human race and infectious diseases.