[March 24, 2020] If we were to look back upon the planning for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the one thing missing was an exit strategy. It was an invaluable lesson learned from our strategic failures and one lesson that is seriously appreciated. What we need now, during the Coronavirus pandemic, is an exit strategy from the economic and social lockdown now imposed upon ourselves.
“The United States has no exit strategy or timetable for withdrawing its forces from Iraq, and a pullout depends on the readiness of Iraqi Security Forces,” – Donald Rumsfeld, U.S. Secretary of Defense
We need a Coronavirus exit strategy. Leaders are responsible for the future, what happens and what doesn’t happen. That means leaders must be looking into the foggy future and figure out where we should be and then lay out a plan to get there with the least amount of pain. Every economist is saying the United States has the confidence and capability to recover from the draconian measures now in place. So far, there is little discussion on how to get there.
“The option to force everyone to stay home and close all ‘non-essential’ business for three or six months is simply not viable.” – John Cochrane, the Grumpy Economist
We need more than an economic Coronavirus exit strategy. Modern nations are complex and highly interconnected. Not only are nations industrial engines that help make their citizens succeed, but they are also social, political, and familial. When a business shuts down, even temporarily, some costs extend beyond the economy.
Right now, politicians are the primary decision-makers. Their input is primarily from the medical community. What we do not hear about is whether policies and laws have undergone any rational cost-benefit analysis that includes the socio-political variables that also make up a nation.
In a previous post, I quoted New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as saying, “I want to be able to say … [that] I did everything we could do … and if everything we do saves just one life, I’ll be happy.”1 This statement has its problems but also suggests that there is no real analysis. If so, we are in serious trouble. There will be unintended consequences, and the probability that many of those will be bad is excellent.
Many people are involved in making sure the U.S. comes out of the economic shutdown with as few problems as possible. Now is time for us to hear about what some of those measures. And now is the time for our leaders to show us the future.