The prognosis for the current coronavirus crisis in the US is quite alarming.
With the disease now out of control, a deadly cocktail is developing, with weak and erratic leadership at the top, a lack of co-operation between the authorities at various levels of government, and an absence of will in the population to pull together.
Why has this happened in a country that has been the predominant world power and leader in advanced technologies for the past 100 years?
My understanding of why the US is in such a health and economic quagmire has been enhanced by my life-long interest in, and involvement with, this fascinating country and its people over a period of 35 years.
As a young boy in the 1950s, my interest was sparked by a book that I read about the US.
I studied its political system in detail when I majored in political science in the 1960s and between 1979 and 2011, I visited the US on seven occasions.
Travelling across the country provided me with an up-close opportunity to observe the ebb and flow of US society, its people and its politics over a long period.
I recall here my time in the US because it has provided me with some useful insights into why the country is failing so badly as it grapples with the pandemic.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Superficially, it might seem that the answer to this crucial question is the "leadership" of President Donald Trump.
He was indeed very late to grasp the scale of the medical emergency, slow to act and ham-fisted with his decision-making as the crisis increasingly overwhelmed the entire country.
Although Donald Trump is no FDR, Ike or JFK, his "leadership" is hamstrung by the US political system.
The President of the US has more limited authority in national matters than the Prime Minister of Australia. Why?
When the Founding Fathers drew up the US Constitution towards the end of the 18th century, they created a system of government, with "checks and balances" to ensure that an American president could not become all-powerful, like their previous British masters.
The US political system works reasonably well in times of peace but is not well equipped to handle a significant national crisis, because decision-making is so decentralised.
This shortcoming is now becoming quite noticeable, as various states are going their own way and opening up their economies even when the number of coronavirus cases is very high and still rising.
In Australia, we have overcome this problem with the recent formation of a National Cabinet involving all heads of government from across the political divide, who are acting cooperatively.
This is very unlikely to happen in the US because the ideological gap between decision-makers is too wide.
This has increasingly become the case this century, as divisions grow because of the growing inequality of wealth in the US - particularly in the 'Rust-Belt' states, whose industries have not been able to compete with cheap overseas imports.
Also, in the Deep South, the scars of the American Civil War are still evident in the lack of job opportunities in the economies of these states.
Visiting both Montgomery, the capital of Alabama and in the heart of the Deep South, and Chicago, the biggest city in Illinois and to the north of the country, highlighted for me this immense economic divide.
But not only are states breaking away from a central co-operative approach to the coronavirus, so are the people. Recent TV footage shows alarming scenes of hostile and dangerous demonstrators, demanding the end of the lockdown, and a restoration of their freedoms.
IN OTHER NEWS:
Australians might grumble about coronavirus restrictions, but it is hard to imagine widespread civil disobedience here in this time of crisis.
In the US, there is a pervasive belief that the rights of the individual should be elevated above the collective good of the people.
Elements of this, such as the right to bear arms, are enshrined in their constitution and mass shootings have been the result.
How will the coronavirus crisis end for the US? Very badly, I fear.
A change of president in November could be an excellent start to getting the US back on track but real progress will probably only happen if a successful vaccine is developed. And that is a big "if".