Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Having failed to break the US political deadlock, greens are now looking to the US military to intervene in domestic politics, to save us all from the carbon demon.
The Only Force That Can Beat Climate Change Is the U.S. Army
America’s military is the only institution that can break the partisan deadlock on the worst threat the nation faces.
BY ANATOL LIEVEN | JANUARY 9, 2018, 12:45 PM
The precise extent of human-induced climate change is unclear, but the basic science is unequivocal, as is the danger it poses to the United States. This threat comes from the direct impact of climate change on agricultural production and sea levels but equally importantly from the huge waves of migration that climate change is likely to cause, on a scale that even the world’s richest states and societies will be unable either to prevent or accommodate.
This is because the most promising avenue to convince conservative American voters and to generate genuinely serious action in the United States against climate change would be to firmly establish the link between global warming and critical issues of national security. The threat should be obvious, but even before Donald Trump took office, the security elites in the United States and other major countries had not yet really integrated it into their thinking. Thus the vast majority of reporting and analysis of security issues in the Persian Gulf relates to classical security threats: the future of the Iran nuclear deal, the geopolitical and religious rivalry between Saudi Arabia and Iran, the Saudi-led boycott of Qatar, and so on.
But the case for a security role is a vital one. Only security establishments and national militaries have the capacity to mobilize resources on the scale required. Only they can make the link between the threat of climate change and patriotic duty and convince ordinary voters that the sacrifices required are necessary for the future safety of their countries.
Integrating security into this debate would also bring with it a better understanding of how to address the risks involved. Climate change deniers such as the Heartland Institute are apt to call for absolute scientific certainty about climate change — a guarantee that any action will come far too late. On the other hand, some activists falsely assert absolute certainty about detailed future impacts — a certainty that simply cannot be justified scientifically.
One of the impediments until now to approaching this issue rationally has been that the issue of climate change has become miserably entwined with the cultural-political divide now splitting American society. In recent years, all too many conservative Americans have begun to deny climate change not on the basis of evidence or debate but because their cultural allegiance rules it out. “We aren’t the kind of people who believe in climate change.”
This is where the role of the U.S. military is so crucial. It is the one American institution that retains the confidence and respect of the great majority of Americans from both political parties. It is also an institution whose culture depends on a sober and realistic appreciation of threats and which can talk to conservative patriotic Americans with conviction and in a style they can understand. No “citizen of the world” will ever persuade a Republican voter to vote against his or her immediate interests. A U.S. soldier talking about threats to America would have no problem doing so.
The internal divisions in U.S. society and politics concerning climate change are obviously serious barriers to the security establishment’s playing a bigger role — as witnessed by the Trump administration’s NSS.
However, the sheer scale of the threat to the security of the country means that the U.S. military has an institutional and patriotic duty to instruct Americans concerning this threat, just as it has influenced them in the past on other threats falling within the military’s sphere of competence. Incidentally, this also involves education on the likely security consequences of mass migration, a subject on which liberals are as irrational in their way as conservatives are concerning climate change.
The second relates to the role of patriotism and nationalism in America. At present, climate change has been turned — quite unnecessarily — into an issue that divides Americans rather than unites themAt present, climate change has been turned — quite unnecessarily — into an issue that divides Americans rather than unites them. Nationalism is the only force in the United States and elsewhere that can motivate the masses to make sacrifices in the struggle against climate change not on behalf of abstract ideas of planetary responsibility but on behalf of a commitment to the future of their countries. This involvement of patriotism is vital, both because the economic sacrifices required will indeed be very considerable and because they will have to be made by present generations on behalf of future ones.
The military can play a key part in mobilizing these feelings and turning this struggle into one that unites Americans and reduces the divisions and hatred that are beginning to pose a threat not only to the working of the U.S. political system but even the long-term survival of U.S. democracy. Without this engagement, successful action against climate change will be impossible, and the consequences for the United States and the world will be disastrous.
I suggest one of the main reasons the US military enjoys the respect and support of the US people is because of the long upheld US military tradition of serving the Constitution rather than any particular political cause, a tradition of NOT intervening unnecessarily in US domestic politics.