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Since it first emerged in 1997, avian influenza has become deadlier and more resilient. It has infected 109 people and killed 59 of them. If the virus becomes capable of human-to-human transmission and retains its extraordinary potency, humanity could face a pandemic unlike any ever witnessed.
If an influenza pandemic struck today, borders would close, the global economy would shut down, international vaccine supplies and health-care systems would be overwhelmed, and panic would reign. To limit the fallout, the industrialized world must create a detailed response strategy involving the public and private sectors.
Recent outbreaks of avian flu, SARS, the Ebola virus, and mad cow disease wreaked havoc on global trade and transport. They also all originated in animals. Humanity today is acutely vulnerable to diseases that start off in other species, yet our health care remains dangerously blinkered. It is time for a new, global approach.
To get a sense of the broader damage a new pandemic might do, it helps to consider the one the world is currently enduring: HIV/AIDS. Because this deadly scourge moves slowly, many of its social, political, and economic effects have yet to be understood. But the impact is hard to overstate. And it is growing.
So far, the Bush administration has shown it would like to resolve its problems with North Korea and Iran the same way it did with Iraq: through regime change. It is easy to see why. But the strategy is unlikely to work, at least not quickly enough. A much broader approach -- involving talks, sanctions, and the threat of force -- is needed.
President Bush is only half right to trumpet the spread of freedom as the main objective of U.S. foreign policy; the pursuit of justice is just as important. Broadening the focus would not only befit the United States' political tradition, but also help neutralize opposition from radical Islamists and critics of globalization.
With China's economic clout growing rapidly, Americans are accusing Beijing of every offense from currency manipulation to crooked trade policies. None of these charges has much merit, but they have increased the probability of a U.S.-Chinese trade war that would do considerable damage to both sides.
Although few U.S. politicians will admit it, antidumping policy has strayed far from its original purpose of guarding against predatory foreign firms. It is now little more than an excuse for a few powerful industries to shield themselves from competition -- at great cost to both American consumers and American business.
Radical Islam is spreading across Europe among descendants of Muslim immigrants. Disenfranchised and disillusioned by the failure of integration, some European Muslims have taken up jihad against the West. They are dangerous and committed -- and can enter the United States without a visa.
Increasing aid and market access for poor countries makes sense but will not do that much good. Wealthy nations should also push other measures that could be far more rewarding, such as giving the poor more control over economic policy, financing new development-friendly technologies, and opening labor markets.
In today's interconnected world, weak and failed states pose an acute risk to U.S. and global security. Anticipating, averting, and responding to conflict requires more planning and better organization -- precisely the missions of the State Department's new Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
U.S. engagement with Afghanistan has brought all of Central Asia to a turning point, but flagging interest and uncoordinated policies risk undermining recent gains. To seize the opportunity for progress in a vital region, Washington should form a Greater Central Asia Partnership for Cooperation and Development.
Reviews & Responses
Two postmortems on the Iraq occupation lambaste Washington for handling the job poorly. But doing much better would be so difficult that perhaps the bar should be raised for going to war in the first place.