Iceland and Norway also play key roles in Pompeo's and the Pentagon's new strategic calculus. Another former Cold War facility, a base at Keflavik in Iceland has been reoccupied by the Navy and is now being used in antisubmarine warfare missions. Meanwhile, the Marine Corps has stationed several hundred combat troops at bases near Trondheim, Norway, the first permanent deployment of foreign soldiers on Norwegian soil since World War II. In 2018, the Pentagon even reactivated the Navy's defunct Second Fleet, investing it with responsibility for protecting the North Atlantic as well as the Arctic's maritime approaches, including those abutting Greenland, Iceland, and Norway. Consider these signs of heating-up times.
And all of this is clearly just the beginning of a major buildup in and regular testing of the ability of the U.S. military to operate in the Far North. As part of Exercise Trident Juncture, for example, the aircraft carrier Harry S. Truman and its flotilla of support ships were sent into the Norwegian Sea, the first time a U.S. carrier battle group had sailed above the Arctic Circle since the Soviet Union imploded in 1991. Similarly, Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer recently announced plans to send surface warships on trans-Arctic missions, another new military move. (U.S. nuclear submarines make such journeys regularly, sailing beneath the sea ice.)
The Irony of Arctic Melting
Although Secretary Pompeo and his underlings never mention the term climate change, every aspect of his new doctrine is a product of that phenomenon. As humanity puts more and more greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and global temperatures continue to rise, the Arctic ice cap will continue to shrink. That, in turn, will make exploitation of the region's abundant oil and natural gas reserves ever more possible, leading to yet more burning of fossil fuels, further warming, and ever faster melting. In other words, the Pompeo Doctrine is a formula for catastrophe.
Add to this obvious abuse of the planet the likelihood that rising temperatures and increasing storm activity will render oil and gas extraction in parts of the world ever less viable. Many scientists now believe that daytime summer temperatures in oil-producing areas of the Middle East, for instance, are likely to average 120 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050, making outdoor human labor of most sorts deadly. At the same time, more violent hurricanes and other tropical storms passing over the ever-warming waters of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico could imperil the continuing operation of offshore rigs there (and in other similarly storm-prone drilling areas). Unless humanity has converted to alternative fuels by then, the Arctic may be viewed as the world's primary source of fossil fuels, only intensifying the struggle to control its vital resources.
Perhaps no aspect of humanity's response to the climate crisis is more diabolical than this. The greater the number of fossil fuels we consume, the more rapidly we alter the Arctic, inviting the further extraction of just such fuels and their contribution to global warming. With other regions increasingly less able to sustain a fossil-fuel extraction economy, a continued addiction to oil will ensure the desolation of the once-pristine Far North as it is transformed into a Pompeo-style arena for burning conflict and civilizational disaster.
Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. His new book, All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon's Perspective on Climate Change (Metropolitan Books), will be published in November.
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Copyright 2019 Michael T. Klare