The US Defense Secretary explains that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that “has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today—from infectious disease to terrorism.” The principal threats being multiplied here are hype and hysteria.
Army Chief of Staff Ray Odierno delivered a stark message on Monday, warning that the U.S. Army is shrinking to a dangerously small size even as the threats it faces are multiplying.
“We’ve seen Russian aggression in Eastern Europe, we’ve seen ISIS, we’ve seen some increased instability in other places,” the general told a military conference. “So I now have a concern whether even going below 490,000 [troops] is the right thing to do.” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced in February that the Army would shrink to about 450,000 soldiers by 2017. General Odierno’s modest suggestion to the political class: Maybe now is a good time to rethink the cuts.
The report contains the usual global-warming platitudes that have become standard government and industry fare. The goal is to “integrate climate change considerations across the Department and manage associated risks,” and “collaborate with internal and external stakeholders on climate change challenges.” In a foreword, Mr. Hagel explains that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that “has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today—from infectious disease to terrorism.”
The principal threats being multiplied here are hype and hysteria. Current fears about the Ebola virus notwithstanding, the last century of increasing carbon-dioxide emissions has also been the era of the conquest of infectious disease, from polio to HIV. No one has made a credible link between Ebola and climate change, though no doubt somebody will soon try.
As for terrorism, the Pentagon’s job is to defeat jihadist forces that are advancing under the flag of Islamist ideology. Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan did not murder his fellow soldiers at Fort Hood because the heat got to him, and Americans who might die at the hands of the Islamic State won’t care that Mr. Hagel is mobilizing against melting glaciers.
The report doesn’t spell out particular steps beyond the usual surveys and studies, though these inevitably take their toll in expensive paperwork and bureaucratic attention. But it’s of a piece with efforts by the military to go green that are a costly drain on scarce Pentagon resources. The Navy has a plan to generate 50% of its energy from alternative sources by 2020, including buying $3.5 billion in biofuels, and it has also awarded contracts to build so-called biorefineries. It’s partly through ideologically motivated boondoggles like these that the Navy finds itself with a mere 283 ships, down from 337 in 1999.
The military has often been used as a vehicle for social change, and sometimes—as in Harry Truman ’s 1948 desegregation order—that can be a force for good. For now, what the U.S. and the world most need is credible and sufficient American military power to deter and defeat our enemies. Issuing politically correct bows against a speculative threat from climate change when ISIS is at the gates of Baghdad will only convince those enemies that we lack the will to do so.