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Dr. Fauci’s eyes from across the Atlantic
Trump has left the stage. Watching the day’s processions, I was looking for something to define the moment, but couldn’t find it. Then, a day later, I saw Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the American Center for Disease Control (CDC), speaking at a press briefing. I don’t think there is anything better to represent the end of Trump’s term than the joy and relief on Dr. Fauci’s face.
“The idea that you can get up here and talk about what you know—what the evidence, what the science is—and know that’s it, let the science speak,” Dr. Fauci said, pausing for a second. “It is somewhat of a liberating moment.” Need one add anything further to mark the end of the Trump era? I don’t think so.
Dr. Fauci was at the podium announcing that the United States is ready to sign the COVAX program of the World Health Organization (WHO), and make 2 billion doses of vaccine available to developing countries. The program is about the international effort to ensure global access to vaccines. U.S. President Joe Biden has signed an executive order maintaining his country’s membership of the WHO.
Is multilateralism back in America? It may be too early to say, but the first salvo of executive orders suggests that the president won’t refrain from taking the lead in dealing with international issues now. The Paris Climate Accord, signed originally by U.S. former President Barack Obama, is in its fifth year. A high-level climate conference is to be hosted by the Americans on Earth Day, April 22.
The head of the Office of Science and Technology Policy at the White House is now turned into a cabinet position, for the first time ever. The way Americans speak of science almost has an anthropomorphic quality to it, and in this new administration, “Science” is going to have a chance to speak at the highest level. It is understandable why someone like Dr. Fauci looked so happy the other day. It is quite a contrast from his former boss, who advised his nation to drink bleach in a dead-serious tone, only later to claim that he was joking.
Why is this significant? It was David Malpass of the World Bank who was worried last week that access to vaccines among developing countries is lagging behind, while the rich are driving up prices. Around 40 million doses have reportedly been administered in 50 mostly high-income countries, as of early last week.
We have a global calamity that can only be controlled by global action, and we have no leadership to organize the global health response so far. The failure in organizing a global response means that the pandemic will stretch out well into 2022. The Biden administration is starting out on a strong note to prevent that, and not a moment too soon.
However, flawed American leadership has been in past decades, and its absence over the last four years did not make the world better. “There is only one thing worse than fighting with allies, and that is fighting without them,” Winston Churchill said at the end of the war. From the anti-Turkish alliance in the eastern Mediterranean to increasing Russian action around Turkey, we have become more and more aware of this reality, have felt the void, and have become anxious.
I should confess that we had similar feelings in Turkey during the late Obama period, too. At the time, I thought that the anxiety was due to a communication failure. Obama’s approach was too oblique. A straight-talking successor would surely make things easier for Turkey-U.S. ties. I was wrong. Obama’s successor did bill himself as a straight talker, but he made things worse.
I will not forget the joy and relief that I saw in Dr. Fauci’s eyes. Trump was erratic, a huge burden on the world, and he is gone. Good Riddance.
We are happy to see the “America of the Enlightenment” back in Washington.