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General News    H4'ed 11/14/19

Tomgram: Michael Klare, A World in Which All Hell Is Breaking Loose

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Honestly, the Ukraine situation is next to nothing by comparison. Just run-of-the-mill, quid-pro-quo Trumpian corruption (based on run-of-the-mill Biden family corruption). I mean, if you really want to impeach Donald Trump for something, how about a crime not just of this moment, or of the three years of his presidency, or even of this century, but of almost any imaginable century? Today (and into the decades to come), humanity faces a crisis the likes of which we've never had to deal with before: climate change. It's a literal case of a potential hell on Earth to come in what historian and fire expert Stephen Pyne calls the Pyrocene Age. Along with the CEOs of the big energy companies, Donald Trump is now perhaps the leading arsonist on this planet. Representing the country that has, historically, emitted more greenhouse gases than any other, he, like the top officials in his administration (and the Republicans who support him to death), is no simple climate-change denier. Straight out of the fossil-fuelized 1950s, he's intent on scorching the planet in any way he can -- in Alaska, in the Arctic, in California, in Utah, across the fracking fields of the U.S., you name it and he's ready to turn up the heat.

At a moment when he's already begun to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, his is certainly a record worthy of planetary impeachment. In 2020, put him and his crew of cronies in office for another four years and you might as well erect a tombstone over this country and this planet because, to use Michael Klare's phrase in the title of his new book, all hell's truly going to break loose. Tom

The Situation Room, October 2039
What the U.S. Military Will Be Doing in a Climate Crisis Future
By Michael T. Klare

The Situation Room, October 2039: the president and vice president, senior generals and admirals, key cabinet members, and other top national security officers huddle around computer screens as aides speak to key officials across the country. Some screens are focused on Hurricane Monica, continuing its catastrophic path through the Carolinas and Virginia; others are following Hurricane Nicholas, now pummeling Florida and Georgia, while Hurricane Ophelia lurks behind it in the eastern Caribbean.

On another bank of screens, officials are watching horrifying scenes from Los Angeles and San Diego, where millions of people are under mandatory evacuation orders with essentially nowhere to go because of a maelstrom of raging wildfires. Other large blazes are burning out of control in Northern California and Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington State. The National Guard has been called out across much of the West, while hundreds of thousands of active-duty troops are being deployed in the disaster zones to assist in relief operations and firefighting.

With governors and lawmakers from the affected states begging for help, the president has instructed the senior military leadership to provide still more soldiers and sailors for yet more disaster relief. Unfortunately, the generals and admirals are having a hard time complying, since most of their key bases on the East and West Coasts are also under assault from storms, floods, and wildfires. Many have already been evacuated. Naval Station Norfolk, the nation's largest naval base, for example, took a devastating hit from Monica and lies under several feet of water, rendering it inoperable. Camp Pendleton in California, a major Marine Corps facility, is once again in flames, its personnel either being evacuated or fully engaged in firefighting. Other key bases have been similarly disabled, their personnel scattered to relocation sites in the interior of the country.

Foreign threats, while not ignored in this time of domestic crisis, have lost the overriding concern they enjoyed throughout the 2020s when China and Russia were still considered major foes. By the mid-2030s, however, both of those countries were similarly preoccupied with multiple climate-related perils of their own -- recurring wildfires and crop failures in Russia, severe water scarcity, staggering heat waves, and perpetually flooded coastal cities in China -- and so were far less inclined to spend vast sums on sophisticated weapons systems or to engage in provocative adventures abroad. Like the United States, these countries are committing their military forces ever more frequently to disaster relief at home.

As for America's allies in Europe: well, the days of trans-Atlantic cooperation have long since disappeared as extreme climate effects have become the main concern of most European states. To the extent that they still possess military forces, these, too, are now almost entirely devoted to flood relief, firefighting, and keeping out the masses of climate refugees fleeing perpetual heat and famine in Asia and Africa.

And so, in the Situation Room, the overriding question for U.S. security officials in 2039 boils down to this: How can we best defend the nation against the mounting threat of climate catastrophe?

The Unacknowledged Peril

Read through the formal Pentagon literature on the threats to American security today and you won't even see the words "climate change" mentioned. This is largely because of the nation's commander-in-chief who once claimed that global warming was a "hoax" and that we're better off burning ever more coal and oil than protecting the nation against severe storm events or an onslaught of wildfires. Climate change has also become a hotly partisan issue in Washington and military officers are instinctively disinclined to become embroiled in partisan political fights. In addition, senior officers have come to view Russia and China as vital threats to U.S. security -- far more dangerous than, say, the zealots of ISIS or al-Qaeda -- and so are focused on beefing up America's already overpowering defense capabilities yet more.

"Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security," the Department of Defense (DoD) affirmed in its National Defense Strategy of February 2018. "Without sustained and predictable investment to restore readiness and modernize our military to make it fit for our time, we will rapidly lose our military advantage."

Everything in the 2018 National Defense Strategy and the DoD budget documents that have been submitted to Congress since its release proceed from this premise. To better compete with China and Russia, we are told, it's essential to spend yet more trillions of dollars over the coming decade to replace America's supposedly aging weapons inventory -- including its nuclear arsenal -- with a whole new suite of ships, planes, tanks, and missiles (many incorporating advanced technologies like artificial intelligence and hypersonic warheads).

For some senior officers, especially those responsible for training and equipping America's armed forces for combat on future battlefields, weapons modernization is now the military's overriding priority. But for a surprising number of their compatriots, other considerations have begun to intrude into long-term strategic calculations. For those whose job it is to house all those forces and sustain them in combat, climate change has become an inescapable and growing concern. This is especially true for the commanders of facilities that would play a critical role in any future confrontation with China or Russia.

Many of the bases that would prove essential in a war with China, for example, are located on islands or in coastal areas highly exposed to sea-level rise and increasingly powerful typhoons. Naval Support Facility Diego Garcia, a major logistical and submarine base in the Indian Ocean, for example, is situated on a low-lying atoll that suffers periodic storm flooding and is likely to be submerged entirely well before the end of the century. The Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site, focused on preparing American defenses against the future use of nuclear missiles by either North Korea or China, is located on Kwajalein Atoll in the midst of the Pacific Ocean and is also destined to disappear. Similarly, the country's major naval base in Asia, at Yokosuka, Japan, and its major air facility, at Kadena on the Japanese island of Okinawa, are located along the coast and are periodically assaulted by severe typhoons.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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