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General News    H2'ed 8/4/21

Adm. James Stavridis Dishes on the Pros and Cons of Climate Change

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Adm. James Stavridis Dishes on the Pros and Cons of Climate Change

by John Kendall Hawkins

Last night I sat in on an hour-long webinar conducted by The Cipher Brief, a kind of Intercept for neo-conservatives, its well-traveled Wilbury contributors largely ex-military, national security wonks and Intelligence Community (IC) "retirees." A blurb at the site, from the Studies in Intelligence journal, says that "The Cipher Brief has become the most popular outlet for former intelligence officers; no media outlet is even a close second to The Cipher Brief in terms of the number of articles published by formers."

The subject of the webinar was Climate Change, and included guests Christopher Gallagher (Enterprise Risk and Sustainability director for Lockheed Martin), Admiral James Stavridis (ex-Navy and a managing director at the Carlyle Group), and we're told, by host Suzanne Kelly, that ex-NSA chief James Clapper was "sitting in," along with an unnamed bevy of journalists, who were encouraged to submit their questions to the program guests. So, it's cozy, yeah cozy, being part of an hour long think tank thing that brings together the whole MIC and MAC (Media Access Control) shebang. After all, we're all in this quackmire together.

It should be noted that Suzanne Kelly is an ex intelligence reporter for CNN, and has previously hosted a corporate blog dealing with national security issues. In 2014, covering the Aspen Security Forum, she was one of the first to publish official criticism of Edward Snowden's recent "criminal" divulging of highly classified NSA documents -- made possible, a security wonk at her site whinged, by the use of a single Sharepoint server and giving Snowden administrator rights to it (what could go wrong with this arrangement?). This is the kind of crazy doh-oh moment that happens in the Apparatus (the place where tools convene) all the time -- that's why no one can do an audit of the goddamned thing. 'Failure of imagination,' they call it, time and time again -- you know, like they called the 9/11 intelligence fiasco. Like mean girls not talking to each other, the FBI and NSA didn't share intel gossip, they said. (Remember the hoot they had when someone told them of the potential blowback should they actually drop a Gay Bomb on the battlefield, and the pink wind should change suddenly? Doh-oh. The 2007 Ig Nobel Committee loved it.)

Kelly is also the author of the bestseller, Master of War: Blackwater USA's Erik Prince and the Business of War (HarperCollins, 2009) -- the kind of war work that a young Dylan used to spit on, but, says Kelly, which the Army War College currently uses in its Advanced Strategic Art program (and, I hope, along with The Pentagon Papers and the film Dr. Strangelove, which Daniel Ellsberg, in his must-read 2017 book, The Doomsday Machine, referred to as "a documentary.") Full disclosure: I haven't read Kelly's book on the Prince of Darkness, but you'd be advised to balance her account out with Jeremy Scahill's Polk award-winning Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army (Nation Books, 2007).

It was the second time I'd listened to a TCB webinar, as a subscriber, the first being last year when TCB had Kevin Mandia (of Mandiant and FireEye) on, along with "sit-in" ex-NSA head Michael Hayden, to discuss "Cyber Lessons in the Year of Covid," a fireside chat that cooled the cockles of my warm, warm heart. Mandia, who started out in cybersecurity with George Kurtz, now CEO of rival CrowdStrike, was tainted by a pirated software scandal at their company Foundstone. How hilarious to know that they are now both out to protect Fortune 500 company assets. More cockle-warming. But, on the webinar, Kev was served up softballs, and my proffered question about the CrowdStrike-Mandiant, one-two, "investigation" of the 2016 DNC "hack" never got raised. In fact, only one 'journo question' was answered. (Here's my piece on the Mandiant-CrowdStrike-FBI nexus, and more.)

So, there I am, a "Lefty" listening in to these Righty tootings -- not that it makes a whole lot of difference any more, since we're at that Americana end place in Animal Farm when none of the farm's animals, looking in at the meeting of minds between Mr. Jones and Napoleon, can tell one from the other anymore.

What I couldn't help but notice was how highly structured the program is. It's an hour long. Professionally produced. No doubt guests worked with Kelly on producing quippy answers to questions they'd been given ahead of time, along with time assignments. There was no spontaneity, no surprises from the guests. We Lefties goes off on tangents, and suddenly go, S h*t, we've run out of time. Where does it go? The Right is scripted; they've been pulling the same thing for years; it obviously works. The Right is full-of-sh*t, hold it all in squeezy-rigid, and need nothing so much as a good barium enema, which they self-administer once a while, resulting in shock and awe in a ceramic realm somewhere, revolution to the Right or Left, depending on the hemisphere they flush in. The Left, on the other hand, likes to rant and rave because all they gots is words and jazz.

Well, anyway, Lockheed Martin's Gallagher started off the program, not saying much of anything really. I'd like to describe his spiel as being akin to the first concert I ever went to -- with Iggy Pop opening for Led Zeppelin at Boston Garden, bikers beating the snot out of coppers in a drug-laced environment that counts as a pleasant childhood trauma, for a change -- but Gallagher ain't no Iggy Pop, and, sad to say, when the "prolific writer" Admiral Stavridis came on, he climbed no stairways to heaven in my heart. They're too stiff, the Right. They dance with their shoulders. All the time you're thinking as you watch, Reservoir Dogs, and I often feel stuck in the middle with the Left and Right these days. But Gallagher did say,

...transition climate security risks are amplifiers that exacerbate other risks. Examples include the geopolitics of reduced hydrocarbon revenue or green economy, critical mineral supplies. To respond to these interdependent risks, adaptable and resilient solutions are required.

Translated: We're still trying to figure out how we can make the usual buck off Climate Change.

Admiral James Stavridis. (Applause Track.) Says nothing about the Carlyle Group. But I wondered what he was up to there. Because I'm a Lefty. Or maybe not. Who knows? Who gives a thit? More preening words were expended on his years as dean at the Tufts University Fletcher School, which made me think of Tufts recent disavowal of the Sandler Oxycontin family gifts, and Dylan's kid who went there, and how I turned back a full scholarship there. And the Tufts campus is just down the proverbial road from Recorded Future, in Somerville, former home of the Winter Hill gang and a cinema where I saw Eraserhead on the large screen, the CIA-startup early warning system that recently castigated Edward Snowden, saying his leaks may have cost lives. Glenn Greenwald replying, Nuh-uh.

But what Admiral Stavridis did bring to the table for discussion was a watered-down version of the General Milley Army War College Report on the Effects of Climate Change, which I reviewed recently for these very pages. An exclusive. The Report was speaking for the military (Milley was chairman of the joint chief-of-staff under Trump when he commissioned the Climate report). To save time, Stavridis kept his remarks centered on the Navy. And himself. The Army Report mentioned several key areas of concern for the military as it helps "mitigate" climate change in the years ahead. Kelly begins her interview with the I'm-not-that-innocent, eye-fluttering question, "Is there really a connection between climate and US National security?" What the f*ck's the "really" for?

But before he's willing to answer that manly Question in anything resembling detail, he product-places his new book, a no-nonsense novel titled, 2034: A Novel of the Next World War. There's some cheery news, wot? Apparently though it's not the end to everything we've ever cherished just yet. No, the Admiral takes the time to thrill would-be readers of his imagined Apocalypse to come that the book is the first of a trilogy, with 2054 and 2074 ahead. Nurse Ratchet with hope pills. Line up.

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John Kendall Hawkins is an American ex-pat freelance journalist and poet currently residing in Oceania.

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