by Mike Murray
The current national strategy for fighting COVID-19 will fail. And the failure will be catastrophic. It will impact you and those you love. Continuing on the current track, even for the next seven days, will seal our doom. The measure of failure will be massive economic collapse that places millions out of work and threatens internal peace and security.
This will be to the 2000s as the Great Depression (1929 – 1933) was to the 1900s. But it need not be.
In a real war – and this is a real war where our livelihoods and security are at risk – a Wartime President always employs the Military Option.
The Military Option is not complex, though the decision to initiate guarantees the loss of life. This is the horrible burden that Wartime Presidents must bear. The brutal calculus is always the same: send our young people to war for the survival of the nation. And this is always the supreme sacrifice – mothers and fathers sending their sons and daughters to the frontlines, knowing that many will never come home. Young adults just ready to launch their lives and fulfill their potential.
There are two prongs to the COVID-19 war: (1) fighting the virus by minimizing infections and (2) keeping people in jobs. Although 90% of current attention is being placed on the first, 90% of our downstream national challenges will come from the second.
How can the Military Option be employed against an invisible virus? We must think different. We cannot be trapped by the current groupthink. We can’t ask our entire population to self-isolate, for this will suffocate the economy and the long-term results will be massive in scope and consequence. When we choose to think different, we find ourselves saying, “Let’s be willing to send our young people to the front-lines. We must we willing to sacrifice a few for the welfare of the whole.” We must balance the health of individuals with the health of the country. Both are indispensably important. We must play the long game.
The Military Option in Three Steps:
1. Encourage all healthy people, ages 20-55, to get back to work immediately, back to restaurants, back to barbershops, back to dance halls, and even back to the Florida beaches. We’re not a country of dummies. This large group can walk and chew gum at the same time. They can work, while also practicing smart public health practices. And these are our strongest warriors who, if infected, will likely suffer only mild symptoms. We will lose a very small percentage to death, yet this is the price we must be willing to pay in any war.
2. Protect our most vulnerable citizens: Those over 60 and those with significant chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Members of this collective group should remain very vigilant regarding health safety. And this group should also get the highest priority for both testing and treatment in our overloaded hospitals.
3. Re-open all schools immediately, using the same science-driven logic as above. If there are shortages of staff, we can employ many from the healthy 20-55 group to drive busses, work in cafeterias, and even serve as janitors. Teachers, administrators and other school employees who are in vulnerable categories are excused from their jobs.
The Military Option cares nothing for political polling, re-election campaigns, and “Beltway” victories. All is set aside and the survival of the country is placed first. Old fashioned courage and integrity are required in a national war, for the outcome is never guaranteed.
Ideally the Military Option is led by an uncompromised Wartime President. He must be willing to sacrifice political expediency for patriotic duty. He must place this war, in all its dimensions, ahead of his re-election campaign. He must find the strongest and most courageous to plan and lead the assaults. For if he wins this war, with a minimum of deaths and a restored economy, then a coveted second term is his. As he walks the hallowed halls of the White House, late into the night, might his soul resonate with these timeless words from Lincoln, written on the eve of the Civil War, whose outcome was anything but known: “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
This is the heart of an uncompromised Wartime President.
But if this ideal cannot be achieved in very short order, then the implementation of the Military Option falls to our governors. We need not throw the baby (our economic security and prosperity) out with the bath water (this onerous COVID-19 virus). Thus we encourage Governor Newsom from California, Governor Cuomo from New York and others on the front lines to think different and be prepared to act immediately with the Military Option for the welfare of our great country.
Time is of the essence because collective groupthink is strangling our ability to think different and we are cascading towards a cliff with all on board.
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Mike Murray is a former vice president of Microsoft and lives in the Seattle, Washington area. He is the founder of the Crystal Springs Foundation, which supports a handful of carefully selected high-impact organizations whose leaders and employees have a knack for dramatically improving the world.