In any number of 1950s sci-fi films, alien lifeforms attack, and earthlings realize that what unites them is more important than what divides them. Over the last few months, we earthlings actually have been under attack by alien lifeforms, yet we are more divided than ever.
How different the current situation might have been had China's rulers said early on: "A virus that came from a bat has gotten loose in Wuhan. We're sorry. But you can count on us to be transparent and cooperative, to work with the international community to contain and eventually defeat this common enemy."
Instead, China's Communist mandarins concealed vital information and outright lied. Throughout January, they permitted people from Wuhan to fly around the world. Only at the end of the month was Wuhan locked down. By then, as The New York Times has reported, "outbreaks were already growing in over 30 cities across 26 countries, most seeded by travelers from Wuhan."
China's rulers went on to level absurd allegations. The most offensive: that American soldiers brought the virus to China. They insisted that Taiwan, which knew a thing or two about what was happening and how best to respond, be ignored by the World Health Organization, one of several U.N. entities they have subverted.
You may have missed this: Early on, when the Chinese Communist Party line was that the virus was "preventable and controllable," European Union member states shipped nearly 60 tons of medical equipment to China.
"Much of this came from national strategic stockpiles, and it was sent discreetly, at China's behest," according to the European Council on Foreign Relations. "By contrast, when the pandemic arrived in Europe, the Chinese government made a big show of offering 'aid' to Europe – much of which actually came with a price tag."
China's rulers then posed as heroes, demanding public displays of gratitude. Their claims that Romans sang the Chinese national anthem from their balconies as a way of saying, "Grazie Cine!" appear to have been cut from whole cloth.
Over recent days, Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping has rubbed salt into other wounds, precipitating a border clash with India, escalating threats to Taiwan, and taking additional measures to deprive the people of Hong Kong of rights his government signed a treaty to guarantee.
Europe's response has not been forceful. Josep Borrell, the European Union's foreign policy chief, said late last week that he opposed sanctions or even putting "investment deals" at risk. His only recommendation was raising issues of concern "in our continuing dialogue with China."
Beijing's actions may, however, have energized the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, a low-profile grouping convened by President Trump in 2017 in response to Beijing's attempts to infringe freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. The other members of "the Quad" are India, Japan and Australia.
A thought: Might it be possible to expand the Quad into a serious common defense alliance? Could such an alliance be coordinated with the Trump administration's new "Economic Prosperity Network," whose purpose is to bring "trusted partners" together to accelerate a post-pandemic economic recovery?
Further down the road, could these associations develop into a new multilateral organization to which only free nations (and perhaps those that aspire to be) need apply – an alternative to the misnamed United Nations?
The U.N. system, it should by now be obvious, has neither the ability nor the desire to promote freedom and human rights. Nor is it adept at preventing or settling conflicts. The General Assembly is dominated by the envoys of despots. On the Security Council, both Russia and China use their vetoes in support oppressive regimes and causes.
What the U.N. and its dozens of affiliated international organizations have become good at: spending American money to advance the interests of America's adversaries and enemies.
Proposals for a new institution of, by and for free peoples, have been floated in the past by top advisors to both President Obama and President Clinton. In 2008, John McCain promised he would create such an organization if elected president. Among the names that have been suggested: "Concert of Democracies," "League of Democracies," "Community of Democracies," and "Democratic Cooperative Network."
Let me stop here and acknowledge both the irony and difficulty of pushing for solidarity among nations that value human rights at a time when our own nation is so deeply divided.
America's political parties resemble hostile tribes. And even within those tribes, the various clans – e.g. Trumpers vs. #NeverTrumpers – are barely on speaking terms.
Adding to this volatile cocktail are the riots and lootings that have been wreaking havoc in more than a dozen American cities, and tarnishing peaceful protests over the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black suspect, by a white Minneapolis police officer who has now been charged with third-degree murder.
That these fires are being fueled by Antifa, and perhaps other violent extremist groups, is certain. Meanwhile, on social media, Beijing's propagandists have been gloating. "The oppressed people in US are begging for China to liberate them from the tyranny of their brutal police state," read one of many tweets.
Things could get worse. "To me, current conditions feel disturbingly similar to things I have seen in Iraq, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia and Colombia," soldier/scholar David Kilcullen wrote several days before the current wave of unrest broke out.
Did China's Communists intend for alien organisms to destabilize an increasingly disunited United States? The evidence is inconclusive. I am confident, however, that they're shedding no salty tears over the way things are going.
Clifford D. May is founder and president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) and a columnist for the Washington Times.