This is a guest post from Eric Van Rythoven (PhD) who teaches International Relations and Foreign Policy at Carleton University, Canada. His work has been published in Security Dialogue, European Journal of International Relations, and Journal of Global Security Studies, among others. He is the editor (with Mira Sucharov) of Methodology and Emotion in International Politics: Parsing the Passions (Routledge, 2019).
As governments around the world grapple with the Covid-19 crisis several are reaching for the metaphor of war to convey the urgency and gravity surrounding the pandemic.
There are obvious advantages to this strategy. Historically, the language of war has functioned as a powerful mechanism for collective mobilization and emergency action. It can suspend partisanship, free government agencies of burdensome rules, and activate extraordinary powers on behalf of the executive. Even more, it can revive memories of shared sacrifice—as in World War 2—which can serve as inspiration and even comfort in uncertain times.
At the same time the war metaphor comes with a number of risks. One problem is that it risks positioning militaries as the leading responders to the Covid-19 crisis. As academics studying the securitization of AIDS/HIV have noted, this can lead to limited resources being diverted from public health systems and towards the military.Continue reading