The warmongers are at it again. In case you haven’t heard, the Pentagon has declared a global war on global warming. It’s our armed forces vs. the forces of nature, and we are the enemy. Those entrusted with protecting us from suicide bombers are now trying to protect the environment from us.
In mid-October, the Pentagon released its “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” which lays out the military’s plan to deal with the effects of global warming. “Climate change,” says the report, “will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.” Among those immediate risks is “a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years.” It is important to remember that 50 years from now is 50 years from now, which is hardly “immediate.”
The dangers do not end there. In a foreword to the report, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel asserts that climate change “has the potential to exacerbate . . . terrorism.” Another Pentagon report, released in March, claimed that climate change “can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”
Others agree. The New York Times recently quoted Marcus King, “an expert on climate change and international affairs,” suggesting, in all seriousness, that ISIS might be the result of global warming. “Climate change and water shortages,” King said, “may have . . . triggered situations where youth were more susceptible to joining extremist groups.” The root cause of terrorism, it seems, is the weather.
“Weather has always affected military operations,” Hagel correctly observes. Indeed, one could go further and say that weather has always affected things people do outside. Hagel believes the threat posed by climate change requires “a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach,” otherwise known as President Obama’s plan all along.
This administration is not the first to redefine U.S. national security so broadly. It is the second. The end of the Cold War reopened the question of just what America’s national security entailed. With the Soviet Union no longer threatening our survival, the question arose: What, if anything, did?
The Clinton administration’s answer was multifarious. With no clear enemy in sight, the government began to look for oblique ones. It identified AIDS in Africa and global warming as threats to national security. An early draft of its 1994 national security strategy proclaimed, “American citizens and interests are increasingly at risk from complex transnational developments that threaten our security.”
Words like “complex” and “transnational” are hallmarks of incoherency in foreign policy. In this case, the attempt to complicate was an attempt to obfuscate. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright scoffed at the idea that “global issues” such as the environment were “soft issues that you do when you don’t have anything better to do.” Actually, that is exactly what they were—and are.
Not coincidentally, the environment became a matter of U.S. foreign policy precisely when the Soviet empire began to crumble. In 1990, Senator Sam Nunn, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said “the destruction of our environment” constituted a “threat to our national security.” That same year, Senator Al Gore called for a “Strategic Environment Initiative”—a play on Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative—that would require “a mobilization of talent and resources usually reserved only for purposes of national defense.” Gore openly admitted he had “appropriated military jargon” to make his case.
Gore compared “beaches covered with medical garbage” to “Soviet behavior,” which over the course of seven decades had caused the deaths of tens of millions of people and the enslavement of hundreds of millions more.