Whoever sits in the Oval Office come January 2021, he or she will almost inevitably have to address pandemic disease as a foreign-policy issue. From AIDS and malaria to Ebola and pandemic flu, every president in recent decades has been faced with an international infectious disease outbreak that demanded both the attention of U.S. diplomats and officials and financing from U.S. budgets. Yet, to varying degrees, each administration has been caught unprepared. So far, the current set of presidential candidates does not seem more promising on this front.
The well-being of Americans in today’s globalized world is inextricably linked to that of people around the globe, while the effects of pandemics are born disproportionately by the least powerful. The next U.S. president needs a proactive strategic initiative, based in global solidarity, to address today’s pandemics, tomorrow’s outbreaks, and the health impacts of climate change.