12.9.2021 | STAT First Opinion

By Steve Brozak

In the military, as in business and civilian life, leadership change can be needed to achieve victory or solve a problem. That’s where the U.S. is today with Covid-19.

Two years into the pandemic, the country’s efforts have stagnated. We have endured the catastrophic winter surge of 2020-2021, the Delta surge this summer, and are now being buffeted by the entirely predictable global rise of the Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2. It is too early to predict Omicron’s impact, but the failure to detect it, and the surprise U.S. health care leaders have expressed about its appearance, are intolerable. All of these result from an unrealistic and simplistic response to Covid-19 and a failure to address the basic tendency of viruses to mutate and become immune to a single vaccine or therapeutic.

Today’s situation with Covid-19 reminds me of a brutal lesson the U.S. military learned in 1943 at the hands of Nazi General Erwin Rommel, his Afrika Corps, and two divisions of Panzer tanks. Although U.S. and British forces had the advantage of numbers, the inexperienced and poorly led troops suffered many casualties and were pushed back from their strategic position at the Kasserine Pass.

Stung by this defeat, the first major battle against the Nazi war machine in North Africa, the U.S. reorganized commands, replaced obsolete tanks, improved air support, and, most importantly, fired the generals responsible for the defeat and brought in competent and aggressive generals like George Patton and Omar Bradley.

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