Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

How the Coronavirus is Changing How We Think About Warfare

| Apr. 09, 2020

Even as the novel coronavirus pandemic nears its peak, defense analysts are beginning to assess how the global spread of this deadly disease should change how we think about warfare.

“This has exposed some genuine gaps in military planning and readiness, as well as vulnerabilities in our national preparedness,” messaged Derek Chollet, a former assistant defense secretary who is executive vice president of the German Marshall Fund. “The silver lining is it will force us to fix some things and prepare in a way we have needed to do for years.”

Certainly, covid-19 has had a “demonstration effect,” several analysts said. It shows how suddenly the global economy can be brought to a near-standstill by a new pathogen whose origins, transmission and effects are still murky, more than three months after the initial outbreak in China.

“Our form of democracy is vulnerable in the extreme. And any adversary who failed to notice would be brain-dead,” messaged Graham Allison, a leading strategist and a professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

But the covid-19 narrative also shows how problematic it would be to use a pathogen as a bioweapon. The attacker would be nearly as vulnerable as the target as the pandemic spread. Such a blight might be appealing to anarchists who sought only global destruction. But an Islamist terrorist group, say, would have to expect that the pathogen could kill as many of the Muslim faithful as unbelievers.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ignatius, David.“How the Coronavirus is Changing How We Think About Warfare.” The Washington Post, April 9, 2020.