One of the reasons why there has been so much self-flagellation, as [Walter Russell] Mead would have it, is that for at least the last thirty years American leaders have overdosed the public with self-congratulation and fantasies of exceptional excellence that masked serious shortcomings and failings in our society. Especially since the end of the Cold War, many Americans have cultivated a triumphalist attitude that blinded us to the flaws of our system, and that blindness left us vulnerable. The “indispensable nation” that presumes to dictate the affairs of nations on the other side of the planet can’t even take care of its own people in an emergency. The government that imagines that it can remake other countries in our own image can’t provide enough protective equipment for our medical professionals. The U.S. could have invested much more in its own health care, infrastructure, and workers, but for decades we have chosen to fritter it away on imperial fantasies and giveaways to concentrated wealth. Mead’s reference to medieval flagellants is meant as an insult, but a penitent and reflective response is much more appropriate to our current situation than the cheerleading bromides that he has to offer.
… The government has spent trillions and sacrificed thousands of American lives in futile wars to ward off minor or non-existent threats, but it can’t be bothered to invest a fraction of that in preparedness for a pandemic. Our national security priorities have been out of whack for decades, and it has taken a disaster of this magnitude to show us just how big of a mistake we have been making.