Trump holds a press briefing with members of his Coronavirus Task Force at the White House, March 2020
Yuri Gripas / Reuters

The world has never before confronted a crisis quite like COVID-19, one that has simultaneously tested both the limits of public health systems everywhere and the ability of countries to work together on a shared challenge. But it is in just such moments of crisis that, under all prior U.S. presidents since World War II, the institutions of U.S. foreign policy mobilize for leadership. They call nations to action. They set the agenda for what needs to be done. They chart a path beyond the point of crisis.

Unfortunately, President Donald Trump has spent the last three years demeaning and degrading these very institutions and denigrating the kind of U.S. leadership and global collective action they promote—which is one reason for the world’s inadequate response to the coronavirus pandemic thus far. To date, world leaders have done alarmingly little together to blunt the crisis. The

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  • NICHOLAS BURNS is Professor of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Harvard Kennedy School; he served as U.S. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2008 and as U.S. Ambassador to NATO from 2001 to 2005.
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