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The International Order After COVID-19

At first blush, the coronavirus pandemic seems likely to corroborate the argument for deeper international cooperation to confront shared global challenges. But crises tend to intensify and accelerate preexisting trends – in this case, the rise of anti-globalist nativism.

WASHINGTON, DC – Running parallel to the global battle against the coronavirus pandemic is a tug of war between two competing narratives about how the world ought to be governed. Although addressing the pandemic is more urgent, which narrative prevails will have equally far-reaching consequences.

The first narrative is straightforward: a global health crisis has further demonstrated the need for multilateralism and exposed the fallacy of go-it-alone nationalism or isolationism. The second narrative offers the counterview: globalization and open borders create vulnerabilities to viruses and other threats, and the current struggle for control of supply lines and life-saving equipment requires that each country first take care of its own. Those in the first camp regard the pandemic as proof that countries must come together to defeat common threats; those in the second see it as proof that countries are safer standing apart.

At first blush, COVID-19 seems likely to corroborate the argument for a more coordinated international approach. Given that the coronavirus does not stop at national borders, it stands to reason that the response should not be constrained by them either.

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