Background Briefing: March 12, 2020


A History of Plagues and Pandemics

We begin with an overview of the history of plagues and pandemics throughout the centuries up until today’s coronavirus outbreak and compare the lethality of the many deadly plagues that decimated populations to the current threat and discuss how advances in vaccines and antibiotics have eliminated many grave illnesses that have taken their toll on families over the ages. Thomas Bollyky, director of the global health program and senior fellow for global health, economics, and development at the Council on Foreign Relations, joins us. He is also a professor of law at Georgetown University and is the author of the book Plagues and the Paradox of Progress: Why the World is Getting Healthier in Worrisome Ways and we will discuss how people are living longer and fewer mothers are giving birth to many children in the hopes that some might survive.  But we also examine the emerging new threats to global health from drug resistant illnesses because of the indiscriminate use of antibiotics and the possible return of diseases that have been eradicated by vaccines because of the anti-vaxxing movement’s lowering of herd immunity.


How the Democratic Party Dealt With the Bernie Sanders of 1944

Then with Bernie Sanders’ path to the Democratic nomination narrowing we will analyze what measures can be taken by the Democratic Party to avoid a split in the party between relieved moderates and disheartened progressives who saw Bernie Sanders as the best hope to improve their lives and redress their grievances against a system rigged in favor of the rich while they struggle to meet ends. Benn Steil, director of international economics and the historian in residence at the Council on Foreign Relations, as well as the author of The Marshall Plan: Dawn of the Cold War who has an article at the Los Angeles Times, “How Democrats dealt with the Bernie Sanders of 1944,” joins us. We discuss how FDR’s progressive Vice President Henry Wallace was eased out of office by the party to make way for the more centrist Harry Truman.


The Short-Lived Deal in Afghanistan Which Now Has Two Presidents

Then finally with the short-lived peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban in tatters, and two presidents of Afghanistan conducting inaugurations at the same time after a blatantly rigged election very few participated in, we will assess the future of that war-torn country as U.S. troops begin to pull out from America’s longest war. Christine Fair, a Professor in the Security Studies Program within Georgetown University’s Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service who previously served as a political officer with the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan in Kabul and is the author of Fighting to the End: The Pakistan Army’s Way of War and In Their Own Words: Understanding Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, joins us to discuss how Pakistan wants a weak and compliant Afghanistan into which they can export their jihadis.