Will the Covid-19 pandemic change national security?
At MIT’s Starr Forum, experts consider if the coronavirus crisis catalyze savvier 21st C. security strategies: e.g., to include health care, aid for workers and communities, protection for democracy, and increased international collaboration to manage novel pathogens.
The virtual Starr Forum, “Rethinking National Security in the Age of Pandemics,” featured (clockwise from top left) Yasmeen Silva, Jim Walsh, Vipin Narang, and Joe Cirincione.
EXCERPT | MIT NEWS | APRIL 27, 2020
"As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to inflict huge damage around the world, international affairs experts are increasingly wondering: Will the virus make countries reconsider their national security strategies? After all, conventional defense capacities have been of limited use against a devastating contagion — and more viruses like Covid-19 may well be out there.
For all the trillions spent on military buildups in recent decades, most military solutions do not apply to a pandemic. Given that annual U.S. spending on nuclear weapons exceeds the amount spent on public health, there is a clear imperative for changing budget priorities, so the U.S. can “start right now having a savvier 21st century definition of national security.”
Yasmeen Silva, partnerships manager at Beyond the Bomb, an advocacy group against nuclear war, also made a case for significantly altering the approach to U.S. security.
“Due to this misplacement of priorities, we’re seeing that we’re not able to meet the threats of the 21st century that actually make us less safe,” Silva said.
Security, Silva noted, can be measured by “preventable deaths” for “everyday Americans,” and she suggested an array of spending priorities, beyond weapons, to advance that cause — including health care, direct economic relief, aid for workers and communities, and protection for democratic functions. Those things, Silva added, would help the country “move forward in a way that sets an agenda for true safety and security.”
Vipin Narang, an associate professor of political science at MIT and a leading expert in nuclear strategy, said that an effective response to the pandemic would almost certainly require more extensive international collaboration and work.
The panel was the latest iteration of MIT’s Starr Forum, a series of events on foreign policy issues held by the Center for International Studies.