Making It Even Worse

19 May 2020


Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Trump Threatens WHO With Permanent Funding Cut


Donald Trump is desperate for a Covid-19 scapegoat, and he is currently trying to pin at least part of the blame on the World Health Organization. In April, he announced a 60-day suspension of US payments to the WHO. Yesterday, he sent a letter to WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in which he accused the WHO of bias in favor of China and of mishandling the pandemic that originated there. Negotiations appear to be underway, but the idea that "getting tough" with the WHO during a pandemic will win the day is delusional.

The first fact is that Mr. Trump is in no position to complain about a lousy response to the Covid-19 outbreak by anyone. His own record is abysmal. As late as March 16, he was claiming the virus would just "wash through" in the summer. This was after he claimed it would simply vanish in a miracle, and long after he called it a hoax.

At the same time, his record of praise for China and President Xi's actions during this outbreak speaks volumes. Politico has found 15 different statements in which Mr. Trump praised the Chinese response and transparency. For instance, he tweeted on January 24, "China has been working very hard to contain the Coronavirus. The United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency." On February 7 at a business convention he said, "I just spoke to President Xi last night, and, you know, we're working on the -- the problem, the virus. It's a -- it's a very tough situation. But I think he's going to handle it. I think he's handled it really well."

The same day before getting on Marine One, he told the press, "Late last night, I had a very good talk with President Xi, and we talked about -- mostly about the coronavirus. They're working really hard, and I think they are doing a very professional job. They're in touch with World --  the World -- World Organization. CDC also. We're working together. But World Health is working with them. CDC is working with them. I had a great conversation last night with President Xi. It's a tough situation. I think they're doing a very good job."

The WHO and the Chinese could have been quicker off the mark and much more transparent, and after this unpleasantness is over, an indepth after-action study is in order. China, of course, won't allow that, and the WHO will take forever to respond to such demands. Mr. Trump, if re-elected, won't want an inquiry either. He's proven too incompetent.

If it is Mr. Trump's intention, however, to free the WHO from the clutches of China (a counter-factual situation to begin with), then cutting funding during a pandemic and threatening to quit the organization represents a strategic best designed for failure. By cutting funding, the US loses its credibility, and if a country does not pay its dues, it can lose its voting rights. That would certainly reduce American influence in the organization without China doing anything to contribute to the decline. It also makes the US look petty, which the Trump administration is. In the middle of a global threat to the species, Mr. Trump wants to weaken the WHO if he doesn't get his way. A weaker WHO during a plague is not in America's interests regardless of what payoff it might achieve.

Then, there is the implied threat to quit the WHO entirely. Cutting funding permanently is tantamount to leaving the body whether Mr. Trump formally leaves or not. If the idea is to prevent the WHO from being in China's pocket, a counterweight is needed. If one presumes the WHO is going to fall into China's orbit, losing America's gravitational field merely makes that outcome more, not less, likely.

As this journal has said before, no situation is so bad that Mr. Trump's actions cannot make it worse. So it is with the WHO.

© Copyright 2020 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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