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Coronavirus Chaos

Coronavirus Origins: What Happens When We Have the Answer?

Coronavirus Origins
President Joe Biden gets briefed by Liz Sherwood Randall, Julie Rodriguez and participates in a conference phone call with governors affected by the snow storm in the middle of the country in the Oval Office, Feb. 16, 2021, in Washington. (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

The pursuit of Covid-19 origin has just begun. And it will only get harder from here. President Joe Biden’s decision to task our intelligence community to determine the origins of COVID-19, and report the conclusion in 90 days, buys some time to prepare for an answer. What to do with the verdict – lab accident confirmed, natural causes confirmed, or inconclusive – and its consequences will be the challenge.

A Conclusion is Not a Resolution 

In this era of weaponized disinformation, virulent conspiracy theories, and distrust – if not outright hostility – about government and expert opinion, we cannot expect any announced conclusion to be a resolution. The Intelligence Community’s key role, a logical necessity in view of the current array of different opinions in the labs and expert communities, carries a reputational disadvantage that must be countered. Observers, both foreign and domestic, can be relied upon to demonize the intelligence community’s involvement and conclusions as self-serving and concealing more than revealing. Recall that an early allegation was that the U.S. Army was the source of the virus in Wuhan.  This may seem quaint in view of possible adverse reactions to an announced conclusion.

As we go through the process in coming 90 days or more, we need a plan for the rollout of the conclusion and the next steps to protect our foreign policy and national security interests, public health at home, and domestic tranquility. The announcement of the findings and conclusions of this effort will not be the end of it.

How to Rollout Any Findings Is Key

On the foreign policy front, this is yet another opportunity when the interests of democratic counties may align. So might the hazards of fragmentation. Every effort must be made to include these countries, both in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond, in the process. If we want allies and friends in on the landing, we need them aboard at the takeoff. Chinese authorities should also be invited to consultations, as well as the World Health Organization. Exclusion guarantees enhanced hostility. We must hold the door open for China, despite their expected rejection of transparency and cooperation. Constant, continuous engagement is needed. Among the community of democratic nations we should strive for a solid alignment among all those who support the ideals of a free and open Indo-Pacific, including the prevention and management of a debilitating disease.

China will vigorously contest any conclusion that questions their management of the Wuhan Laboratory, their handling of the epidemic, their international cooperation or the lack of it, and the animal-to-human transmission theory. We must strengthen our own information campaign in the face of what will be a strong and comprehensive effort questioning the results and motives behind any other conclusion. We must ensure consistent messaging that makes clear our issue is with the government and not the people of China. President George W. Bush’s efforts to reassure America’s Muslim citizens in the wake of 9/11 come to mind. This effort around the virus looks to be much more difficult.

What To Do on the Home Front

On the home front, we already have a problem with animosity directed toward Asian American and Pacific Islander citizens and residents. We would pile tragedy on top of tragedy if we allowed this to become worse. We also have the red-blue divide, with champions of Donald Trump’s claim of lab leakage conflicting with earlier “Blue” views about the origin. Many experts that declined a public role then have now become more open with their views.  The inevitable rise of new information, in this case, allegations of illness among lab workers late in 2019, adds to the questions that must be researched. A compelling case openly arrived at, is needed to reduce our high levels of doubt and acrimony.  We will never get to zero, but we must find some way to avoid extremes.

The death and illness toll in the U.S. and around the world was tragic. We must ensure that the post-mortem analysis contributes more to the healing of the world than to the further souring of relations.

Lieutenant General Wallace C. Gregson (RET), Jr. serves as Senior Director, China, and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2005 with the rank of Lieutenant-General. He last served as the Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific; Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific; and Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Pacific, headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii. Gregson also served in the Obama Administration as Assistant Secretary for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs.
Written By

Lieutenant General Wallace C. Gregson, Jr., is Senior Director, China, and the Pacific at the Center for the National Interest. He retired from the Marine Corps in 2005 with the rank of Lieutenant-General. He last served as the Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific; Commanding General, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific; and Commander, U.S. Marine Corps Bases, Pacific, headquartered at Camp H. M. Smith, Hawaii.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Slack

    June 6, 2021 at 10:21 pm

    Whatever the findings turn out to be at end of the 90 days, Biden must issue an arrest warrant for Xi Jinping. Xi seems to be a combo of Morsi and Richard Nixon.
    It is clear (despite all the hype, rhetoric, propaganda and fake news) covid transmission achieved critical mass during or just after the Oct 2019 military games in wuhan.
    The first reported or known hospitalised case of an unusually severe infection was on Dec 1 2019 and Xi was busy with photo-ops in south china while wuhan authorities were fighting AFP opportunistic reports of ‘SARS in wuhan’ and local rumors of a new serious illness.
    Now with 600,000 US deaths (NBC count) Biden must target Xi and arrest him.

  2. Slack

    June 6, 2021 at 10:40 pm

    It’s critical not to blame people of asian origins for coronavirus (thousands of atrocious attacks have taken place) and coronavirus was very probably circulating along with flu in some parts of the world in 2019 BUT the world must act against leaders who’re high on hubris and who totally neglect the health and welfare of the world’s population and callously aided the current pandemic.

    Mega cities must never be allowed to hold large sports events and citizens must not be allowed free rein to travel abroad simply because they have a few bucks just enough to buy an air ticket.

  3. ata777

    June 7, 2021 at 8:39 am

    Snap out of it. We’re NEVER going to know. There’s too much money and power at stake for an elitist class that views the deaths of more than half a million Americans as an “acceptable” cost of maintaining business ties–and philosophical harmony–with Chinese Communist thugs.

  4. Chalon Mumphrey

    June 7, 2021 at 10:17 am

    Nothing will happen. There are no current world leaders with a spine to stand up to almighty China. 45 would certainly have, and may yet not let the CCP off forever. If not, life goes on until the next cataclysmic CCP event.

  5. Ron Jamin

    June 7, 2021 at 11:05 am

    Easy: Embargo of all Chinese products. Freezing of assets. Forgive all debt.

  6. Nonsmiley

    June 7, 2021 at 12:05 pm

    Ninety days is designed to allow enough time for Biden’s allies in China to help craft the official narrative, which will be normal lab experiment gone wrong because technicians were “bitten” by a bat. They will suppress any talk of “gain of function” research, and Biden will receive more Chinese money.

    Recent escalations in reporting of attacks on Asians in America are increased media scrutiny. Blacks have been committing racist attacks on Asians forever.

    This administration is the worst in recent history for destroying patriotic pride and causing a rift between the races. Not enforcing laws is perpetuating crime, and that’s their legacy.

  7. James LeMay Jr.

    June 7, 2021 at 12:17 pm

    Nothing conclusive will come out of any and all inquiries into the origin of the CCP Virus. Too many “ties” to CCP exist in the world’s media, governments, and corporations.

  8. Dr. Daniel C. Ashley, PhD

    June 7, 2021 at 12:23 pm

    China did not “mishandle” the Wuhan lab. This was an overt act of war by china. China’s purpose was to remove Trump from office and to destroy as much of the Western world’s economy as possible.

    The Chinese Communist Party is the primary motivator of the Antifa and BLM riots, the demise of honest news reporting, and the release of criminals from prison. Their strategy is to make the US and the Western world ungovernable.

    The tactics used by China are not the major problems. Recognizing their strategy is the major problem. As long as the senior US leaders are in business with China, the strategy will not be recognized. I pray our leaders recognize the threats before the US turns itself into a totalitarian state.

  9. JMC0819

    June 7, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    I’m not sure what the whole bruhaha is all about. Outside of temporary economic shock, and yes maybe, higher inflation going forward, this was a good chance for the depopulation of world that US and Western European liberals/leftists have been clamoring for years. These worshippers of oikophobia have been dreaming of cull their native population for years, and given the chance, they decided to put everyone into lockdown. China is definitely the culprit, however the enemy is within.

  10. Joe

    June 7, 2021 at 10:41 pm

    Put it this way (as I was thinking 14 Months ago)… if a strange viral outbreak happened outside Fort Detrick, MD, wouldn’t you start asking questions? Would it seem like a logical first place to look? Yea, me too. Why were we NOT asking those questions? The answer is not the WHO, it was politics. Had it not been an election year, our whole response to COVID-19 would have been a lot more measured and productive. It being from the Wuhan lab HELPED Trump, it having naturally occurred HURT Trump. There was no “follow the science” here… just “follow the politics”. The damage from that (in both over and under-reaction from both sides) cannot be understated. The big winner of this is China, who first off caused it, then tried to cover it up, all while profiting from it by hoarding and selling PPE to the rest of the world.

  11. Krashman Von Stinkputin

    June 8, 2021 at 6:39 am

    This is the same IC that “believed” a dossier written by a British ex-spy. The same IC that instigated an impeachment based on the second hand accounts of an “unknown” whistleblower. The same IC that claims “domestic terrorists” are the greatest threat to the homeland.

    The US Gov funded research that they knew could unleash a pandemic and most likely did. They did this behind our backs and with our money.
    Then along with fellow travelers in science community and media covered it up and used the pandemic as an opportunity to increase their power and control.
    Not a snowballs chance in hell, the Intelligence Community will be fulsome in their findings.

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