The COVID-19 Intelligence Failure: Why Warning Was Not Enough, Erik J. Dahl

Reviewed by Nikki Ikani

For decades, public health experts and journalists worldwide warned about a viral pandemic capable of causing illness and loss of life. Previous outbreaks of SARS, Ebola, and MERS highlighted this threat, which occupied top positions in risk assessments globally. Yet even with knowledge and precedent, the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off guard. It revealed a world inadequately prepared and plunged societies into a state of disruption, with over 7 million deaths reported to the World Health Organization by April 2024. How did this tragedy foretold take the world by such surprise? In The COVID-19 Intelligence Failure: Why Warning Was Not Enough, Erik J. Dahl explores this question from the vantage point of the United States.

In his book, Dahl, who is highly regarded for his expertise on intelligence failures, analyzes past and present intelligence efforts to underline the shortcomings and successes of the U.S. intelligence community's anticipation of the pandemic, comparing the anticipation and response to COVID-19 with historical failed warnings, such as those preceding 9/11 and Pearl Harbor.

Dahl's account consists of five chapters. In the first, Dahl frames the COVID-19 pandemic as a national security problem, in addition to a global health crisis. Its anticipation, consequently, he considers an intelligence failure of global

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