Susan Estrich: Security is the business of government
Summary: Ensuring our personal security, our economic security and our national security is its most basic function. To do that requires trust, and restoring that kind of faith and trust seems, in these times, almost as difficult as dealing with Putin. But we must try.
As a country, we are suffering from a severe case of long
. I don't mean the lingering physical symptoms, awful as they sometimes are. I mean what it has done to our collective psyche, in particular, to our trust in government. That trust is, for all intents and purposes, gone.
And who can blame us?
Don't wear a mask, do wear a mask, don't wear a mask ... Masks save lives, except when they don't. Depending on what state you live in, you may or may not be wearing a mask — even though COVID-19 does not respect state lines.
And who can forget the shenanigans about China and the origin of the virus. Watching health organizations, especially the World Health Organization, and sometimes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issue reports and warnings that seem to have more to do with politics (and in the case of the WHO, geopolitics) than science.
Then there was, and still is, the whole question of school, and the balance between protecting our teachers and our kids and ensuring that they don't fall hopelessly behind. Who can blame parents at a total loss as to whether or not it is safe to send their children to school.
Who do you believe? Who do you trust?
When it comes to COVID-19, the answer for many of us, now two years in, is no one.
The problem is that it's not just COVID-19. Losing trust in government extends, albeit to varying degrees, to everything government does. And that is especially true of foreign policy.
When it comes to education or health care or even the economy, most of us have more opinions than we need. These are, after all, the bread-and-butter issues of our lives. But NATO? Dealing with Russian aggression? A worldwide recession?
Let's face it. Most of us don't have a clue. We read the papers, listen to the news, watch the terrible pictures on television. But solutions? How in the world would we ever know what to do? You need intelligence, and as we have also learned painfully, even the top-secret intelligence can be simply wrong. Think weapons of mass destruction.
Which leaves us in the state we are in. Uncertain. Confused. And divided.
There is an old saying — very old, sadly — that partisan politics ends at our country's borders, that in dealing with the rest of the world, we are, literally, the truly United States. Of course, that has never been entirely true, at least since World War II. But as an ideal, it is a worthy goal. And in dealing with the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, it should even be true.
But that kind of unity demands a level of trust that we have lost.
The challenge for President Joe Biden is not only to deal with the mad man from Moscow but also to rebuild the trust in government that empowers him in the eyes of the world. It means recognizing that government is us, we the people, coming together to do what we cannot do as individuals.
Security is the business of government. Ensuring our personal security, our economic security and our national security is its most basic function. To do that requires trust, and restoring that kind of faith and trust seems, in these times, almost as difficult as dealing with Putin. But we must try. There is no other choice, as Putin has so painfully proven.
Susan Estrich can be reached at email@example.com.