The U.S. set a new coronavirus infection record again over the weekend, registering 83,757 new infections on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s ongoing tracker. “Before that, the most cases reported in the United States on a single day had been 77,362, on July 16,” the Associated Press reports. And on Saturday, the U.S. notched another 83,718 new cases, which nearly set another record.
Across the country, “At least seven states — Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio and Oklahoma — saw record high infection levels Saturday,” AP writes.
Compared to infections and deaths across South Korea, the U.S. looks nearly powerless, as CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted this weekend on Twitter after glimpsing both nation’s dismal data sets. (Worth noting: South Korea is about the size of the state of Indiana.)
The U.S. has 325 million people and more than 225,000 COVID-19 deaths. South Korea, by contrast, has 55 million people and less than 500 deaths to date.
RoK’s apparent success has come “from blending technology and testing like no other country, centralized control and communication—and a constant fear of failure,” the Wall Street Journal reported in late September. What that all means is, “The nation fast-tracked approval of domestic testing kits as soon as cases began hitting. It tapped into its relative wealth and hyperconnectivity, blasting text alerts to citizens if infections occurred in their area. When the supply of face masks ran short early on in the crisis, the government seized production.”
One thing RoK has that the U.S. doesn’t: A recent history of responding to respiratory outbreaks, as 2015 revealed with the spread of Middle East respiratory syndrome. More at the Journal, here.
Also new this weekend: The outbreak hit VP Pence’s office, infecting five aides and advisers, according to the Washington Post, reporting Sunday evening. “[T]he new list of those infected includes the vice president’s chief of staff, Marc Short; his top outside political adviser, Marty Obst; his personal aide Zach Bauer, known as a ‘body man,’ who accompanies him throughout his day; and two other staff members.”
Today for the VP: “Pence is expected to visit the Capitol to preside over the Senate vote to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court,” WaPo reports.
Throwing in the towel: “We’re not going to control the pandemic,” President Donald Trump’s chief of staff Mark Meadows told CNN on Sunday. Why? “Because it is a contagious virus just like the flu,” he said. “What we need to do is make sure that we have the proper mitigation factors, whether it's therapies or vaccines or treatments to make sure that people don't die from this.”
Trump’s national security advisor is heading to swing states Minnesota and Wisconsin “for meetings with trade groups and defense industry manufacturers,” the National Security Council tweeted Sunday afternoon. Planned stops include Fincantieri Marine Group and Oshkosh Defense, according to the NSC’s second tweet.
From an outsider’s POV, such a trip hardly seems advisable, Heather Hurlburt of the New America think tank wondered after reading that NSC tweet. Her reply: “I can’t ever think of an NSA deciding travel to meet with trade groups was the right role for the coordinator of the president’s security policy, much less during a pandemic, much less a week from an election.”
President Trump will campaign in Maine today, and Nebraska on Tuesday as part of travel that is expected to see him hit up more than a dozen states in the final seven-day stretch ahead of election day. What’s more, AP reports “Trump will hold 11 rallies in the final 48 hours alone.” His Democratic challenger, Joe Biden, on the other hand, will spend Monday in his home state of Delaware before traveling to Georgia on Tuesday. More, here.
FWIW: Rewind almost exactly one year to this headline from the Washington Post, Oct. 23, 2019: “None of these 195 countries — the U.S. included — is fully prepared for a pandemic, report says.”
From Defense One
What Would a Second Trump Term Mean For Foreign Policy? // Patrick Tucker and Katie Bo Williams: The nuts and bolts may shift, but the approach is likely to stay the same.
Want Real Security? Create Better Global Digital Rules and Norms // Patrick Granfield and C. Anthony Pfaff: The longer the U.S. waits to throw its weight behind efforts to create rules for today’s digital competition, the less hope it has of retaining advantage.
The Politicization of the State Department Is Almost Complete // P. Michael McKinley, The Atlantic: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his predecessor, Rex Tillerson, have weaponized the institution for the Trump administration’s domestic political objectives.
The Coronavirus Surge That Will Define the Next 4 Years // Robinson Meyer, The Atlantic: Cases are rising in all but nine states. Unlike the past two waves, this one has no epicenter.
The COVID-19 Documentary All Americans Need to See // Shirley Li, The Atlantic: "Totally Under Control" delivers a damning—and essential—report card on the White House’s mismanagement of the pandemic.
Mapping Agency Wants to ID Locations by Sound // Brandi Vincent, Nextgov: If your technology can tell what city it's in just by listening, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency may have a prize for you.
Welcome to this Monday edition of The D Brief from Ben Watson with Bradley Peniston. Send us tips from your community right here. And if you’re not already subscribed to The D Brief, you can do that here. On this day in 1864, the ruthless Confederate guerilla William “Bloody Bill” Anderson was finally killed in northwest Missouri after several years spent murdering Union troops and civilians across the state and the surrounding area. Hundreds of deaths are attributed to the many men he led over the years; and he is believed to have personally killed more than 50 people, leading one historian to call him the “bloodiest man in America's deadliest war.”
Two service members died Friday when their training aircraft crashed in Alabama. The U.S. Navy identified the two-person aircrew as 30-year-old Lt. Rhiannon Ross from Wixom, Mich., and 24-year-old Coast Guard Ensign Morgan Garrett from Weddington, N.C. “Both women were part of the VT-2 Doerbirds, a training squadron for the turboprop T-6B at Naval Air Station Whiting Field,” local Northwest Florida Daily News reported this weekend.
Aircraft: A Navy T-6B Texan II trainer, which was reportedly seen in a tailspin before impact. Fortunately, no civilians were injured in the crash, which occurred near a residential area about 30 miles southeast of Mobile, and set one house and two cars on fire.
Amid shaky intra-Afghan peace talks, the U.S. killed five Taliban fighters with airstrikes on Sunday after they were allegedly threatening Afghan troops in the eastern-ish Wardak province. That’s according to the U.S. military’s spokesman in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Col. Sonny Leggett, who sent that update this morning via Twitter.
America’s top Afghan envoy is in Norway (again) today, Oslo’s foreign ministry tweeted a few hours after Leggett’s airstrike tweet.
The view from Kabul: “We see no sense of urgency by the Taliban about ending this war,” one delegate to the Afghanistan peace talks told the Washington Post’s Pam Constable on Sunday. “In the past several weeks, Taliban fighters have staged ground attacks and bombings in 24 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, leaving scores dead,” Constable reports. That includes “356 attacks, two suicide bombings and 52 mine explosions across the country, killing 51 civilians and wounding 157.”
“The message of the surge is clear and coldblooded,” officials told WaPo. “Even as Taliban delegates continue to nominally participate in peace talks with Afghan leaders in Qatar, the insurgents have shown no intention of reducing violence. Instead, they appear out to prove they can wreak havoc everywhere." Continue reading, here.
BTW: SecDef Esper talked about Afghanistan with his NATO counterparts on Friday, the Pentagon announced this weekend. As for the peace process, “The Secretary noted that the high level of violence by the Taliban jeopardizes this historic opportunity,” the Pentagon said Friday evening.
The U.S. won’t try to blindside allies with abrupt troop reductions, Esper said: “Secretary Esper assured the NATO defense ministers that the U.S. will continue to consult with Allies and partners on changes in force posture to ensure the Alliance can adjust together, and when the time is right, leave together,” according to the Pentagon.
And when it comes to the future of Iraq, Esper “welcomed an expanded role for the NATO Mission,” and “reiterated the U.S. commitment to the enduring defeat of ISIS and long-term regional stability.”
So big picture: No new changes. Or, in the words of Han Solo, “We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?”
From the region: Israel drops opposition to “certain” U.S. arms sales to UAE. This is believed to be a reference to the Emirates’ request to buy the F-35. (Defense News)
Related commentary: The Middle East Institute’s Bilil Saab predicts that this sale would do more harm than good to U.S. interests in the Gulf region. “It was only a matter of time before another Arab partner joined the UAE in asking to buy F-35 fighter jets. Now that Qatar is asking for the jet, it’s time to consider an entirely different approach to helping Gulf nations defend themselves.” Read, here.
The superintendent of the Virginia Military Institute resigned today “after anecdotes of systemic racism at the 181-year-old school surfaced this month and the governor launched an independent probe,” the Washington Post reports.
The U.S. may base Coast Guard cutters in American Samoa. In a Friday statement, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien said both that the U.S. “is strategically homeporting significantly enhanced Fast Response Cutters” in the western Pacific” — likely a reference to the cutter based at Guam — and that the Coast Guard “plans to evaluate the feasibility of basing Fast Response Cutters in American Samoa.”
Reuters asked Coast Guard officials about it on Friday, but received no comment by press time.
NSA O’Brien said the cutters would help counter China’s “illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and harassment of vessels operating in the exclusive economic zones of other countries in the Indo-Pacific.”
The Coast Guard already bases one Fast Response Cutter on Guam, and two more are slated to be deployed there.
And finally today: A ceasefire has at last come to Libya. “The two sides signed the agreement at the United Nations in Geneva at the end of a weeklong meeting of delegates from the internationally recognized Government of National Accord, which is based in the capital Tripoli, and the self-styled Libyan National Army led by Khalifa Hifter and based in the country’s east,” the New York Times reported Friday.
In the fine print of that deal: “frontline forces” are ordered to return to their bases and “all foreign forces and mercenaries” are to be gone “within three months” under “a process that would be monitored by the United Nations.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo welcomed the news, tweeting Monday morning, “commend[ing] Libyan leaders for putting their country first.” From here, “All parties must abide by this agreement and all foreign forces must leave Libya,” Pompeo said. The news has already shaken global oil markets, as the WSJ reported Monday morning. More from that angle, here.