The Washington Post, May 2020
In April, President Trump suspended U.S. funding for the World Health Organization and declined to support a global initiative at developing a covid-19 vaccine. At the World Health Assembly (WHA) held Monday, the United States also refrained from joining 122 countries calling for a “comprehensive evaluation” of the global response to the covid-19 pandemic and a scientific investigation into the source of the virus. And late Monday night, Trump tweeted a letter he sent to the WHO threatening to make the funding suspension permanent and to reconsider American membership unless the organization committed to “major substantive improvements” in the next 30 days.
Such actions are just the latest efforts by Trump’s administration to shun traditional alliances and international cooperation in favor of an “America First” foreign policy.
But withdrawing from international engagement might leave the United States more — not less — vulnerable during the current pandemic. Indeed, as scientists and public health experts have long argued, combating pandemics require cooperation and scientific expertise cultivated across borders. As the world demonstrated over 50 years ago as it battled the “Hong Kong Flu,” diseases know no borders and demand global responses that focus on cooperation, coordination and communication.