Small Wars Journal

Global Climate Change and Landpower

Thu, 07/17/2014 - 11:10am

Global Climate Change and Landpower

Geoffrey Demarest

Pardon me for wondering out loud here.  Looking through the blog I note that not too much has been said here regarding landpower and global climate change.  The subject doesn’t fall into my wheelhouse, and I hesitate to bring it up at all except that I noticed and could not help but be puzzled by the Center for Naval Analysis (CAN) May, 2014 report titled ‘National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change’.  As their title suggests, the CAN researchers assert a link between our national security and accelerating risks associated with climate change.  I don’t know if the Army has done or contracted any study more-or-less equivalent – please let me know if you are aware of something.  The subject of climate change causes me some ambivalence because I think it is always a good idea to advocate improved readiness to operate under extreme climate conditions, whether that supposes cold, hot, wet, dry or whatever.  As a land force we do find ourselves in the most miserable places on earth; that’s pretty much an Army cliché.  There are awful climates for us to not enjoy regardless of any global changes, however, I now think the general argument warning of the dangers of global climate change (and that we all should attend and assign resources to the problem at an institutional level) is empty.  I ask the blog readers to consider what I think I’m seeing in the global climate change arguments and let me know where I’m right or wrong as you see it.

Many people claim there is an urgent need to address global climate change.  Their argument goes about as follows:  1. The world is warming, 2. it has been doing so at a dangerously high pace, 3. the change is bad for the US, humans and the world; 4. the chemical culprit of warming is increased CO2 in the atmosphere, 5. the main source of the CO2 increase is emissions from human hydrocarbon energy production, 6. we in the United States are especially responsible, 7. there are solutions available, 8. and there exists a group of people knowledgeable and politically situated who can effect the solution (self-identified as such and often the same people who are ringing the alarm).  Toward the beginning of the list, the pieces of the logic string are mostly, supposedly, scientific matters.  As the logic unfolds, it seems to take on more political weight.  We are very hesitant in my office to enter into anything predominantly political by nature, so I restrain my comments here to the science part and draw a position on the basis of following a small set of blogs (not even doing that thoroughly).  They are:  Anthony Watts’; Roy Spencer’s, Robert Way, et al’s; Warren Meyer’s; and Tony Heller’s  This may be an unfairly ‘skeptic-prone’ list, so if you have sources you consider more enlightening, don’t hesitate to educate.  I want to be transparent about what I really don’t know, which is a lot to be sure.  It is hard work to dig into the data itself.  Following, however, is the opinion I have formed, in four parts:

1. – Is the world warming?  Maybe, probably, as it seems we have been in a post-ice age melt for thousands of years.  At what rate and what rhythm are the more important questions.  It does not appear (at least according to what I can understand) that the temperature has gone up appreciably in the last fifteen or so years, and it may even be that it has gone down in the last ten or so.  Weather is not climate, but there exists an embedded debate about how many years a weather trend might continue before one suspects an issue of climate.  I can’t form a worthy opinion on that.  Note, however, that the vast majority of the many models should have but did not predict the recent decade or two of weather stability.  The reasons for the models’ failure I cannot ascertain, but there may be a suite of logical reasons.  Perhaps the model builders assumed a greater environmental sensitivity to increases in CO2 than actually exists; modelers really don’t understand how clouds form (clouds perhaps being a greater influence on atmospheric temperature than CO2); and they may have underestimated other sources of CO2 production, such as volcanic activity.

2. Is climate change happening at a pace and rhythm dangerous to humans and the world, and more particularly to US national security?  There is little evidence that global warming is necessarily bad for the world or humans, and especially there is little evidence that it will cause a militarily more dangerous or less stable world, or cause more work or misery for the US Army.  At any rate, since recent data do not support the argument of a high rate of change, the lack of data regarding the effect of change is moot.  A number of writings (not scientific reports) assert or at least intimate that global warming causes and has caused a greater number and greater intensity of severe weather events like cyclones, tornadoes, tsunamis, fires and the like.  Those assertions are not borne out by the data.

3. Is the principle culprit of global climate change carbon dioxide?  It seems almost certain that increased carbon dioxide would have some warming effect, but the relative, net degree of that effect is not known.  One clear, curious and as yet unexplained trend is the well-measured increase in atmospheric CO2 while atmospheric temperatures have remained steady.  One has to ask what overcomes the effect of the CO2 increase.  Climate change scientists have not apparently figured that out, and whatever it is, it does not appear to have been adequately included in the models.  Again, while the CO2 has lately increased, temperature has not.  Anyway, there seem to be many other producers of the stuff besides us.  There is little evidence that the predictable level of increase of CO2 is directly harmful.  There seems to be as much evidence that it might be a good thing.  Increases in carbon dioxide might be a reason for increased global plant growth, for instance.

4. Is global climate change having an appreciable or predictable effect on US national security and is there something special we should and could do about it?  This question is the punch line and reason for this tiresome blog post.  My answer is no, not from a landpower standpoint.  There does not appear to be enough substance to the global climate change warning to, at this time, move any part of our DOTMLPF.  Independent of the global climate change argument, it is probably a good idea to get better gas mileage, have uniforms appropriate to difficult climates, vehicles that start and go in the snow or jungle etcetera.  However, as far as the direct effect of global climate change on national security, and the wisdom of assigning resources to solving climate change – I am thinking we should hesitate to buy in, that is, should resist any expression of enthusiasm or agreement with the notion that there is a link between global climate change and anything the military institution should do about it.  The future of US landpower is not linked to global warming, or at least not according to the current state of the science.  Global warming is also not a significant ‘driver’ of pertinent changes in the foreseeable operating environment.  Of course there may be exceptions.  Maybe we will need a few more snow cats to tromp around in.  What do you say?


Geoffrey Demarest

Wed, 05/20/2015 - 3:51pm

I believe the President gave a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy today in which he reasserted his opinion, and by extension US Government policy, that global climate change presents a serious risk to US national security. According to the President’s view, global climate change [warming I think we are to assume] causes severe weather events to worsen and occur more frequently. Also, military bases will be challenged by rising sea levels. Can anyone steer me to data indicating that the rise in global atmospheric CO2 during the past couple of decades is correlated to temperature, weather or climate change? I can’t find any data to that effect, in fact, only the opposite -- that there has been no correlation. Also, can anyone steer me to data showing that severe weather events have be more frequent or of a larger scale? I can’t find that either. Finally, has anyone seen any data indicating a rate of the rise of sea levels likely to cause us to have to make expensive overhauls to our naval facilities in next twenty or thirty years (the President referenced the careers of the new graduates)? I think he also suggested that the new ensigns would face increased refugee flows, which are to worsen as a result of man-made climate change. Is anyone out there aware of any geographically-specific theory suggesting where that might happen?


Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:38pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M.: This will be fairly brief - I believe we've agreed on items where we disagree, and I suspect that we'll agree that these need not be rehashed. A few final thoughts (and if you want to answer, feel free - about time for me to take a few days off and get some things done).

First, agree on the value of discourse on these issues - iron sharpens iron, and groupthink is an ever present challenge in military circles. (That's part of the reason why I was eager to study strategy overseas - less likelihood of a course cadre full of field grade officers who had undergone RCJ's "Darwinian" promotion process.) Appreciate that although we occasionally bristle with one another, you're generally receptive to civil discourse.

A point of clarification: I would characterize the various types of "strategy" you describe as being distinct from strategy as it is traditionally understood. We have a significant corpus of scholarship, it's a bona fide academic discipline. It grows and updates and refines itself based on emerging challenges, e.g. Brodie, Kahn, Wohlstetter, and the advent of nuclear strategy in the 1950's. As such, your arguments about "18th century concepts of war and peace" fall flat with me, in no small part because I'm currently in the process of reading Clausewitz cover to cover; although I'm too far separated from my former studies of Napoleon and Frederick the Great to get some of Clausewitz's references, I've found it uncannily relevant to contemporary events. Your argument, while understandable, is akin to saying that because all sciences share significant similarities, we should call them all "geology". I question the wisdom of diluting that discipline for the sake of labeling other disciplines that use a similar framework to address very different challenges.

Perhaps to your credit, you're less cynical than I am about the NSS, DSG, et. al. I'm with Gulliver: they're essentially campaign pamphlets that dilute actual national security objectives by lumping all of the White House's domestic policy goals in with "national security".

I understand your concerns about the use of non-military tools to achieve strategic goals, and the myopic focus many have on the "M" in "DIME" when discussing strategy. That's part of why I like the "DIME" rubric, because it acknowledges a spectrum upon which force exists, but is not the sole option. Diplomacy, Intelligence, and Economics are potential alternatives to armed force, but part of the key to each of these is that Military options are their foil. Two adversaries sit down at the negotiating table when at least one good strategist has postured his side to make negotiation a preferable alternative to conflict. So, even when violence is avoided, the possibility of violence, however remote, remains a factor. In situations like Russia/Ukraine, the South China/East Philippine Seas, and some Middle Eastern hot spots, leveraging these other options without taking the remote possibility of armed conflict off the table may provide some options. My career has mostly focused on the Middle East, so I'm less conversant in some of the other theaters. Clausewitz himself focuses on the military aspects, but I would argue that the others are implied.

Agree that tacticians and strategists both serve important purposes, and that neither is more or less important than/intellectually superior to the other. Not sure the DoD recognizes the distinction, hence several of the comments in this discussion.

Again, we'll have to agree to disagree about the strategic impact of climate change. Agree that it's worth planning for all contingencies; believe that part of the question, as you mentioned a moment ago, should be risk management and cost/benefit analysis, which tends to be subordinate to which topics are most popular with the electorate. ("Cyber", as the uninitiated tend to call it, is a textbook example of this.) I'd point out that I'm not minimizing the importance of the Asia-Pacific region, merely cautioning against overestimating risk.

Look forward to further discussion when you've had some time to formulate a a draft definition.

@ thedrosophil,
Laying my cards on the table, I am still working on a definition for strategy, but I can tell already we have differences. In my view, this is a positive because working on resolving those tensions in our differences about strategy will result in a better understanding of the concept of strategy. I am grumpy, I snap, but unlike many who work in this field I’m far from arrogant and don’t claim to have the answers. The arrogant and self-identified strategy experts do not sway me, because frankly none of them have offered a functional solution to the problems we face today. I prefer to work with those willing to engage in heated debates to get to a tentative strategic approach that may work, and yet not fear changing it if it doesn’t.

Key points where I think we disagree. IMO strategy should not be limited to war, why not put the same level of thinking into creating conditions for an enduring peace? We also need strategy for strengthening our nation as a whole (economically, socially, and militarily). There are also national strategies related to economics, education, and for security issues not related to war. These are all important and deserving of strategy. The military doesn’t own the concept of strategy; however, a strategy for winning a war is clearly different from a strategy for improving our national education system, yet improving our national education is an investment in human capital that clearly ties into improving our national security. I can draw that line to a number of issues logically, so while the National Security Strategy has its warts, overall I think it serves its purpose as a grand strategy that addresses a multitude of related topics.

We both have concerns with our war strategies (actual, deterrence, or prevention strategies) concerning the mess in the Middle East, Russia in Ukraine, and China’s disregard of international norms in the East Philippine Sea. I’m not convinced that the traditional view of military strategy would help us resolve any of these problems, unless we think we can use military power as the lead agency in any of these situations to achieve our desired ends. Clausewitz provides insights if we choose to use the military as the principle tool to defeat another country’s conventional military, but that option is increasingly irrelevant in today’s world for a lot reasons beyond the scope of this post.

I think the focus on aligning ends, ways, means and risks are a bit simplistic, and results in thinking that differs little from developing plans. If strategy is going to have a purpose above planning and plans, then it requires thinking on a different pane. That does not mean one is superior intellect compared to a good tactician, but the strategic thinking should be different. We integrate whole of government approaches in plans, it is dysfunctional, but that is a separate issue. We identify ends, ways, means, and risks in plans. In the end, none of these points are unique to strategy, so what differentiates it from planning?

I agree with your point here, “The conflation of "strategy" with large scale plans, even in military circles, has divorced so-called "strategists" working within the Pentagon from the very objectives that true strategy was meant to be a framework for planning toward.” I’m not convinced we’re entirely broke here, instead I think the academics that teach strategy adhere too closely to old concepts of strategy that don’t conform to the modern world. I also think we have a lexicon crisis, where we try to make 18th century concepts of war and peace fit into the 21st century. In short, we don’t have the vocabulary to describe today’s issues in a useful manner.

I’ll provide a rough draft of my definition for strategy at a later date, but soon. I will reserve the right to change it if doesn’t work. Climate change relates to all of this, because it is a strategic driver. I can't imagine a strategist ignoring it, because strategists must consider potential future scenarios. This is why we disagree on the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. That is true strategic thinking, focusing on long term national objectives tied to our economy, instead of confusing the various current crises as ends. They're events that happen in a strategic context, and based on our understanding of that context, and our ends, we can develop appropriate responses (to include the option of ignoring them).

Move Forward

Sat, 04/04/2015 - 10:06pm

Found this article that has two graphs depicting the challenge and cost to the U.S.:…

The large graph at the very bottom illustrates that power plants are the biggest culprit with our cars being second. So be prepared to see your power bills in the winter and summer climb tremendously as EPA regulations (if not halted by current Supreme Court case) create new restrictions on coal powered plants that power much of the U.S.

Next expect to have cars that get 54.5 mpg by 2025...just 10 years from now. Does your current car get half that on the highway? Congrats. Now shrink that car substantially and put in a smaller turbo engine and probably a hybrid-electric that costs a small fortune. If it is all electric it will be costly and create more emissions from those power plants.

Finally, I did a numbers drill since I owned a small business for 13 years and took 3 semesters of Calculus all of which I've forgotten. No worries, as it isn't that complicated. Attributing the reductions required to get the U.S. CO2 down by 26% by 2025 while China simultaneously increases emissions 1% a year leaves the world at almost exactly the current CO2 levels. Both countries combined are currently 44% of the world total (China 29% + U.S. 15%) so if the other 3rd world nations continue to increase their emissions as is likely, we probably will see the U.S. and China with about the same quantity of CO2 in 2025, but the other nations actually increasing their quantities. That does not achieve the 6% annual worldwide reductions claimed necessary to keep global warming levels at reasonably low levels.

So the realist in me notes that we can chase our tails and spend enormously very early to make little dent in the problem, or dedicate the same funds to adjusting to an inevitably warmer world. The President just announced a plan to get Veterans into the solar industry. Great, my son is already there, although not a veteran. In a warmer, sunnier world, perhaps solar-powered homes providing some of the energy total will mean less work for the power plants that are the largest offenders. But of course hotter summers will mean higher energy bills offset perhaps by warmer winters with lower bills.

Maybe the Midwest, rust belt, and northeast will be warmer in the winter. Maybe more Silicon Valley businesses and worker will move to Colorado and Austin. Humans adjust well and if there is not enough water in California thanks to Chinese pollution, there are other places to live and the rest of the nation could use the jobs.

To some degree the private sector is fully capable of solving some of these problems without necessarily getting the government involved to drive up all our costs prematurely. Meanwhile, perhaps we should not be flying Air Force One all over the U.S. or playing golf on courses that require lots of water. At least Al Gore and Hollywood global warming advocates use private jets they pay for.

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 12:15pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

As a 5th Generation Oregonian I can only reiterate - there is no solution for California droughts to be found in the streams and rivers of Oregon.

More problematic are the droughts we can't see, as we drain centuries of water from aquifers in the Southwest, Midwest and Florida in a matter of decades. I do not worry about what happens when the Middle East runs out of oil, but rue the day when the Middle West runs out of water...

(I do think, however that there looms a massively lucrative industry for water rich regions like the Pacific Northwest in shipping tankers of pure drinking water to places like California and China to be sold in bottled form for personal consumption to those who have squandered, polluted, or simply outgrown their own resources.)

Oh, and some day a rising Mexico may well demand more than a salty dribble from a Colorado River watershed they used to own...


Wed, 04/08/2015 - 1:21pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill: An excellent point. The same goes for gun control. Post-Newtown the CDC (or it may have been the NIH) did a massive study about gun violence, found that gun control does not reduce gun deaths, and the report was basically buried.

RCJ: Excellent points all.

Bill M.

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:48am

In reply to by thedrosophil

This gets to my point earlier about the right and left wings using propaganda to distort the facts related to climate change. NOAA published a report that the water shortage in California was NOT related to climate change. Being a government organization, and based on MF's comment about the President now tying the water shortage to climate change if NOAA will have to change their science? ;-).


Wed, 04/08/2015 - 9:39am

In reply to by Move Forward

There's a great deal of wisdom being thrown about in this exchange, though I would differ on the suggestion to divert water from Oregon to California. Oregon has demonstrated what responsible water stewardship looks like, so I believe it sends the wrong message (and probably wouldn't make a significant impact anyway) to punish that good stewardship by diverting Oregon's water resources to help Californians, for whom Oregonians already harbor substantial contempt.

I just want to reiterate the point about California's poor governance. When I was at the NTC, I met a lifelong Mojave Desert resident who could remember when the Mojave River was more than a dry riverbed, and he excoriated Sacramento for diverting that water. I have several friends who are treating the California drought as conclusive proof of the perils of climate change, when it can be more accurately traced to decades of well-intentioned but fundamentally flawed energy and environmental polices, as both of you rightly acknowledge. This is another (arguably "strategic"?) problem with climate change alarmism: it becomes a scapegoat for the dividends of incompetent administration by politicians whom I've heard referred to as "watermelons" (green on the outside, red on the inside).

Move Forward

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 8:50am

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill M,

Many of California's agricultural products are "luxury" crops such as almonds and grapes for wine, the two highest totals after marijuana;). Hay, cotton, oranges, walnuts, and rice of all things are the next largest crops. Rice requires a lot of water as does almond production which has doubled in the past 20 years. Farmers are drilling deeper and deeper decreasing the water table in the central valleys. Desalinization apparently results in lousy drinking water but it certainly would be suitable for crops use and non-potable usage. Bottled water already solves the drinking problem.

I found this interesting, released just recently by the White House. Yesterday you also saw the President attempting to link climate change to health problems in children---tugging at heart strings without much proof of direct linkages.…-

In the examples offered, we are asked to feel sorry for Minnesota, Maine, and Michigan that apparently are experiencing warmer summers---and presumably warmer winters as well. The cost of energy for air conditioning is seen as severe yet the south has faced such costs for decades. The unspoken problem is that by abandoning coal prematurely, energy costs for air conditioning will rise. The people least able to afford high energy bills are the poor and the rural who generally experience higher bills due to smaller electric companies with fewer customers. Yet rural areas have the least problem with air pollution so why are they asked to shoulder the burden of higher non-coal energy production?

Bill M.

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 2:46am

In reply to by Move Forward

All good points, and especially agree with this:

"Spending money on adaptation and resilience to changing circumstances is a better use of funds."

Fortunately, there is a growing consensus we need to focus on resilience, because we can't control the environment effectively. It also pertains to social upheavals, but that is for another thread.

However, you used a poor metric in my opinion. Whether or not agriculture represents 2% of California's GDP is irrelevant, people have to eat, and CA produces more agricultural products than any other state (roughly 17% of the national agricultural product).

Regarding California's water crisis, this has been an ongoing issue for decades, and as you indirectly point out California's biggest problem is poor governance.

Move Forward

Tue, 04/07/2015 - 10:34pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

<blockquote>In my view, this does not represent such a significant strategic risk that it merits disproportionate consideration; rather, it merits the sort of technological innovation, operational flexibility, and global situational awareness that have been the hallmark of Western (and Western-aligned) strategic success in recent decades and centuries. As such, it seems that national resources would be better applied to adaptation or resilience to changing circumstances, rather than to trying to stop natural processes for which anthropogenism is, at best, questionable.</blockquote>

Spending money on adaptation and resilience to changing circumstances is a better use of funds. For instance, I researched the effect of CO2 on plant life and learned that the Chinese have had programs to plant trees for decades. Then I read that northern Australia has experienced greater plant life probably due to increased CO2 production. We may be able to agree that climate change is occurring but it is wholly premature to speculate what the effect will be if gradual warming occurs. For instance will other plant life expand to absorb greater CO2 and can plants and trees be genetically engineered that use less water, burn less easily, and absorb atmospheric heat, while feeding world masses.

One example of adaptation if fires increase due to a dryer climate with more plants and trees, is the National Guard could use Homeland Security funding to construct robotic boxes that include sensors, pumps, and fire hoses/nozzles along with powerful generators. The latter could restore earthquake and hurricane/tornado power losses, while the former also could pump water from flooded areas. The sensors on these robotic boxes also could be used for stability operations to support COP security in times of conflict or in disaster assistance abroad. Remotely operated machine guns could substitute for water nozzles in combat areas, but pumps could also assist well and irrigation construction.

Such robotic boxes along with 3D printed barriers similar to Hesco also could support border security in another dual-use mode. Sunday's "60 Minutes" covered Northern Ireland and showed the tall walls constructed to segregate Catholic from Protestant areas. We also see similar successful examples in Baghdad and Israel. Perhaps 3D printed barriers would be a solution to both stability operations to divide cities into Sunni and Shiite areas and for use in the U.S. against rising sea levels and to complete border fencing with integrated sensors.

California's water crisis is in part only due to 80% of its water going to agriculture which is only 2% of the state's GDP. Some forums mentioned that California should have invested in desalinization plants long ago, but they require large amounts of energy. If true, why not construct offshore wind turbines and underwater turbines exploiting surf energy and funnel the water to the central valley's agriculture?

New nuclear energy probably is unacceptable in California due to earthquake faults but vast lands exist for solar farms and homes with panels on roofs could make a large dent in energy usage. Gas turbines also are replacing coal in many plants thanks to its cleaner nature and greater availability due to fracking. But fracking has not been allowed to a great extent on federal lands, and many states are trying to regulate or prohibit it. If we are eager to preserve the incomes of California farm workers and corporations, why not oil drillers and the middle class folks who fear seeing energy bills climb through wholesale premature abandonment of coal. Hybrid electric cars may be an ultimate solution to automobile CO2 but requiring their use in the next 10 years seems like a bridge too far in terms of battery technology readiness at a reasonable cost.

<blockquote>Addendum: I'm also surprised that the author takes the 2015 NSS and APS so seriously. The 2010 and 2015 NSS' and the 2012 "Defense Strategic Guidance" have been widely dismissed as electioneering masquerading as strategy.</blockquote>
Read the applicable part of the 2015 NSS and find that it covers "Confront Climate Change" on page 12 and then "Advance Our Energy Security" on page 16. These two concepts outlined largely conflict since coal and natural gas are two of our most plentiful energy supplies reducing our dependence on non North American sources. Your point about electioneering applies because environmentalists apparently must be appeased or such an overreaction to climate change would not be allowed and the veto the Keystone Pipeline would conflict with "advance our energy security."

Similarly, the Federal government probably could seemingly require diversion of some of Oregon's Columbia river water to California and Shasta Lake, but environmentalists most likely never would allow it.


Wed, 04/08/2015 - 5:08pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill: My personal definition of "strategy" is similar to what Hoffman proposes. It's the coordination of available means (resources/ money) and acceptable or appropriate ways (methods/ capabilities) to achieve political ends (objectives) relating to national security. I like the "DIME" rubric because it reiterates that the use of armed force is only one aspect of strategy, even if it's the prevailing aspect. *A* strategy is a plan to that effect - as you note, a good strategy will be dynamic, but it will be a plan that amounts to "this is our national security objective, this is how we intend to accomplish it, and these are the resources we can leverage to that end."

With respect to Clausewitz, let's not forget that he was a general who had served in the Prussian and Russian armies. On War was written based upon reflections on his extensive experience in and study of the Napoleonic Wars. As such, I would suggest that Clausewitz deserves the title of "strategist".

I agree that the concept of strategy can have more utility than purely military applications, but that doesn't mean that applying the concept to other endeavours constitutes strategy. That's part of the problem I've sought to identify. The conflation of "strategy" with large scale plans, even in military circles, has divorced so-called "strategists" working within the Pentagon from the very objectives that true strategy was meant to be a framework for planning toward. I should also clarify at this point that I'm not knocking campaign planners, they do valuable and important work, but calling someone a "strategist" when they're really a campaign planner (and educating them accordingly) hamstrings American efforts to connect the use of armed force to achieve the sort of goals that wars are fought for.

Again, tough to take a COCOM commander's comments to Congress at face value. Would direct you to watch the recent grilling that Secretary James and General Welsh received from Representative McSally a couple of weeks ago regarding the Air Force's continuing efforts to mothball the A-10. General Welsh isn't stupid, he knows that the F-35A isn't an appropriate CAS platform, but he said it anyway. Lots of electoral/domestic political constraints go into Congressional testimony, and the same with the policy guidance we discussed earlier. If the C-in-C says in the NSS that climate change is a strategic issue because that's what plays with the partisan base he's trying to woo, suddenly the COCOM commander is on the hook to execute that mission even if he recognizes it as a boondoggle. I agree that someone like a COCOM commander or a Joint Chief has a serious strategic responsibility, but as RCJ noted, people in those billets are labeled "strategists" because doctrine says so, not because they possess appropriate training or requisite acumen. Your argument is essentially "when in Rome", and mine is still "if it doesn't quack like a duck".

I would not consider Thomas Friedman a serious strategist, though I'll agree that he tends to write about some "strategic" issues. I would absolutely accept Colin Gray, and if he does write about climate change, I would be interested to see what he actually had to say about it. I'll read the Gray definition of strategy when I'm able. Aside from Gray, I'm an ardent fan of Generals Mattis and Petraeus (despite Petraeus' obvious lapses in judgment). On the civilian side, I'm encouraged by Secretary Carter, and I think that Secretary Gates before him will be remembered favorably. From having read some niche sources, I think I understand better than most what Secretary Rumsfeld was attempting to accomplish, but I understand why he's such a controversial figure. (For many, it's simply because he's associated with the Iraq War at all.)

With respect to uniformed personnel versus civilian leadership, I think you make a reasonable point, but laying blame depends upon who's sitting in the big chair. I'm more willing to blame President Obama for the wages of ignoring his generals' advice than I am to blame President Bush for (as far as I can tell) heeding his generals' advice. You're right that the "strategy" (and hopefully you'll at least excuse me if I presume to use that word loosely - "clumsy" doesn't begin to describe it!) is formulated by civilian leaders, but if those civilian leaders formulate that strategy based largely upon flawed advice from military advisors who don't understand how to identify and formulate political goals or design a strategy to achieve them, am I still supposed to blame the civilian leaders? If the Naval War College's curriculum is dedicating only one week to Clausewitz, and the Army War College is conferring degrees to students who don't demonstrate an understanding of strategy (then-LTC Bolger) within a culture that tolerates low academic standards and plagiarism (then-LTC Walsh) with a prevailing sentiment of "It's only a lot of reading if you do it", am I still supposed to blame those civilian leaders?

<BLOCKQUOTE>I'm curious from a historical perspective how we addressed national security prior to WWII and the Cold War?</BLOCKQUOTE>

In fairness, it was a lot easier prior to WWII and the Cold War. I'm writing a book about WWI and was looking at a 1914 world map the other day. Nearly all land territory "belonged" to eight or ten different countries in one way, shape or form, and while the borders changed significantly after 1919, there were still only a handful of major players by 1939. In 2015, significant strategic threats can emerge from places that may never have been seen by any literate human before 1945.

Bill M.

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 10:10am

In reply to by thedrosophil

Too much to respond to at this moment, but I'll reengage point by point in more detail later. Hoffman's critique that strategy has lost all its meaning is echoed by many, but I'm not necessarily in agreement with that claim. The classical definition of strategy was tied to war, but whether you call it Phase 0, a messy peace, or in my view is still a subset of war (though I throw that out more to provoke to get contrary ideas to explore), strategy serves more purposes than traditional war.

Regarding your point about serious strategists, this will go back to an enduring problem with blogs, and that is words have meaning. Unfortunately they have different meanings for different people, an issue we could resolve quicker in a face to face discussion. Serious in my view are the people developing and executing strategy (the ones you effectively slammed). When I read COCOM cdr's comments in their Congressional testimony regarding climate change, I consider that a comment by someone that has serious strategy responsibility. I don't know if you consider Thomas Friedman a serious strategist or not, but I think you have to agree he thinks about strategic issues. I believe Colin Gray discusses climate change, but don't take that to the bank, I have to confirm that.

What is strategy? To be frank I'm still not comfortable with the answer, but I like Gray's explanation that I posted on the Forum.

"Strategy is a process of negotiation between those that develop the ends (policy makers) and those that execute, through ways and means, war."

Finally, for now :-), you and others continuously tend to blame military leaders for failed strategy. I'm not saying those in uniform, to include myself when I was in uniform, were without fault, BUT the strategy was developed by our civilian leaders. The policies they developed were naïve at best, dead wrong at worst. The limitations they put on the military hampered their ability to use military force to achieve their policy objectives. This is why I am beginning to agree with Gray's point above, strategy is dynamic, policy can be enduring. To say we don't have a strategy in my view is incorrect, we have national policies (many I disagree with personally), and through a process of negotiation and expedients we execute strategy, often in a clumsy manner, daily. We don't have the luxury of the Cold War that provided an enduring strategic framework to view the world (a bias view that misrepresented the world).

I'm curious from a historical perspective how we addressed national security prior to WWII and the Cold War?


Tue, 04/07/2015 - 3:07pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill: Again, point by point. (Tried to make this as brief as possible, apologize for the length.)

I believe that a great deal of our disagreement stems from competing definitions of a couple of the phrases we've been dancing around: "takes/taken seriously", and "serious strategists".

First, I'm not suggesting that the documents in question are "irrelevant" or that they're being ignored. Rather, I'm suggesting that executing guidance because it's a requirement of one's job, and taking that guidance seriously, are two very different things. Many of those outside the proverbial bubble who were in a position to opine openly identified it as an election year gimmick. I suspect that many of those within said bubble were similarly skeptical in private, but had enough sense to keep their skepticism to themselves.

Second, we appear to differ on what constitutes a "serious strategist". I would argue that "if it doesn't look, swim, or quack like a duck, then it's not a duck". The Pentagon employs plenty of campaign planners masquerading as "strategists" who are neither trained in strategy , nor are they empowered to "develop" anything recognizable as strategy. As such, I'm suggesting that few if any "serious strategists" are currently working in government service. (One natural ramification is that I'm not insinuating that DoD planners should "ignore national leadership and pursue their own independent strategy".) The fact that they are called "strategists" and work on important tasks does not make them "serious strategists". This may seem like an overly academic appraisal, but I agree with yesterday's <A HREF="">WOTR article by Frank Hoffman</A> (himself a retired Marine Corps officer - certainly not an ivory tower academic): "the word 'strategy' is so overused that it’s lost all meaning", and that's one of the root causes of America's recent strategic dysfunction.

Believe that clarifies my position on the statement in question.

We agree that "strategic" documents are relevant and influential, but that the current national strategy formulation process (e.g. NSS-NDS-NMS-QDR, 2012 "DSG", occasional NPRs) is dysfunctional and generates products that are inadequate. They are inadequate to the point of no longer qualifying as "strategy" in any meaningful sense. Observing how and why these documents and this influence policy to the detriment of international security does not constitute a lack of understanding on my part. I also believe that most folks would make a distinction between electoral politics, and national security goals that are traditionally identified as "strategy".

<BLOCKQUOTE>However grand strategy comes from the top whether we or Gen Scales likes it is somewhat irrelevant. It is stii the strategy.</BLOCKQUOTE>

What's being generated at the top isn't strategy, and that's the problem. Strategy is forward-looking, and it requires the C-in-C to identify goals (ends) and balance available resources (means) and authorized methods (ways). The current administration has been repeatedly criticized for being reactive, rather than proactive; constricting means; and advocating for ways that are disconnected from, and insufficient to achieve, coherent political ends. That's why we're "driving blind", as you put it. I'm also curious which "civilians with impressive academic credentials" are currently generating strategy. I'm under the impression that most of those "strategists" we disagree upon are either active or retired members of the officer corps. We would probably agree that both Secretary Gates and Secretary Carter possess(ed) impressive academic credentials, though both are/were constrained by the agenda of the sitting Strategist-in-Chief.

We disagree about the "pivot"/"rebalance" which, at best, consisted merely of less cuts to PACOM's resources than to other COCOMs. The "pivot"/"rebalance" has also been largely superseded by emerging crises that undermine the President's 2012 re-election narrative, including the 2012 DSG itself. The 2012 DSG also presented a spurious narrative that attention was diverted from PACOM to CENTCOM between 2001 and 2012. There were no active engagements in PACOM for which American troops were absent, most contingencies would have probably been naval in nature, and the entire point of having independent COCOMs is that CENTCOM focuses on operations in the Middle East, SOUTHCOM focuses on operations in Central and South America, and such. I agree that the Asia-Pacific region is of significant strategic concern, but I also believe this significance (and the disruptive potential of China) are often overstated and poorly substantiated. We're largely in agreement about the other near- and long-term threats, though I believe the Middle East will continue to be an area of strategic significance (and probably instability) for the foreseeable future.

Again, would be interested to know which prominent strategists you're following who consider climate change a serious strategic issue. Would also encourage you to read the Crichton speech in its entirety. I don't think that climate change is a giant scam or conspiracy, but there does appear to be a group-think problem, and an unwillingness on the part of many in the climatology community to revise alarmist predictions when data is found to be flawed, or computer models fail to accurately predict weather patterns, or previously unanticipated factors are discovered. The typical retort activists is that the science is peer-reviewed, but there are a variety of studies that now question the validity of peer review, and that system has its own limits. Agree that the blow to science's credibility could have major long-term negative effects.

<BLOCKQUOTE>Time to move past the academic debates you participated in and enter the real world where academic theories quickly crumble in the face of reality.</BLOCKQUOTE>

Again, I take issue with this insinuation that my views stem entirely from "the academic debates [I] participated in." I'm very comfortable with my mix of operational and academic experience. Your statement might carry a bit more weight if the Army and the Air Force hadn't just gotten their collective fourth point of contact handed to them in two different theaters because they refused to listen to internal and external critics who identified faults in their campaign plans.


Wed, 04/08/2015 - 1:49pm

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

The best account I have read of the intuitive skill required for Grand Strategy was written by Churchill's CIGS - Field Marshal Alan Brooke. The unabridged edition of his book ‘War Diaries’ is a wonderful insight of someone with strategic vision in wartime. His strategic plans formulated a few weeks after fleeing Dunkirk, when all seemed lost, revealed a remarkable military visionary.

Perhaps his greatest skill was his ability to recognize strategic intuition in certain senior officers and the absence of it in others. He was merciless in removing Generals whom he believed lacked this ability. To reiterate RCJs point he blamed the slaughter of a generation of junior officers in WW1 for the allies’ early reversals in WW2. Even before Dunkirk, whilst touring France, he identified a dearth of senior officers capable of shaping and understanding successful strategic initiative.

He considered Churchill a great charismatic wartime leader but a moronic strategist. Field Marshal Lord Alexander he considered just plain stupid. He rated Ike and Marshall as poor strategists but believed Douglas MacArthur to be a great one.

Perhaps the one individual who he recognized as the most naturally gifted strategist was the completely untrained Marshal of the Soviet Union Joseph Stalin. During several meeting, but especially at Yalta, he watched the pompous Churchill and the dying Roosevelt being completely outwitted and out-maneuvered by a “Georgian peasant.”

I admire Colin Gray writings, especially for his derision of RMA, but he has an anti-American bias that IMO detracts from his many insightful observations.


Bill M.

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 12:05pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

To avoid debating another word where we're talking/blogging past one another, please tell me what you think strategy is? I find it interesting you view CvC as a strategist versus a theorist. A theorist I have learned much from, but what strategy did he develop? If all your "serious" strategists are of the classical era, then of course they didn't address climate change ;-). I know that wasn't your point, but I would like an answer to the question above.


Wed, 04/08/2015 - 11:50am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones

RCJ: Your thoughts are perceptive. I'm reminded of one of my coursemates when I was studying strategy at the postgraduate level who noted, after about six months of instruction, that our senior instructor never really talked about internal conflicts and policing. Despite six months of instruction, it had yet to dawn on him that strategy was foreign-focused, and that policing and internal governance were, at best, ancillary topics. (He's now happily employed by the Metropolitan Police Service in London, which is what he wanted to do all along.)

As I've mentioned both here and elsewhere, I'm concerned that American officers are not actually learning strategy. I've previously mentioned the examples of then-LTC Daniel Bolger (wrote his "strategy research project" at Carlisle on an operational matter, not strategy) and then-LTC Walsh (wrote on strategy, but plagiarism scandal revealed low standards and a lack of academic accountability at Carlisle). A few weeks ago, SWJ published <A HREF="… article</A> about the Naval War College; while the author recommends digging into Clausewitz early and digesting it, he reveals that the NWC's curriculum only spends one week on Clausewitz. While I wouldn't suggest that Clausewitz is the sole source of all strategic knowledge, I'm increasingly convinced that the war colleges are not actually teaching strategy. As such, I suspect few officers employed as "strategists" can actually "quote Clausewitz chapter and verse", which leaves them unprepared to coordinate tactical and operational efforts toward strategic objectives in theater, or to advise strategy-illiterate policy-makers in the formulation of strategic goals within the Beltway.

I agree wholeheartedly with your assessment that personnel with natural strategic acumen are subject to a sort of natural selection process that sees few of them advancing far enough to affect positive results where it counts. As a commentator on <A HREF="… recent article by MGEN Scales</A> noted: "The problem here then, is that due to what is described in the article as the Army’s superb job selecting field grade officers based off of tactical performance, we may be weeding out excellent strategists before they are afforded a chance to show their abilities. Gen William T Sherman would have never made it to the general officer ranks in the modern Army." (In my experience, the officers tend to advance largely by checking somewhat arbitrary boxes such as PT or attending the right schools, and "coloring within the lines" with respect to their personal conduct. That's not a reflection on individual officers themselves, but reflects an increasingly recognized disconnect between the DoD's personnel management system and reality.) Your suggestion of where to start bridging this gap is a compelling one, and would obviously need to be supplemented with a variety of other measures, too.

Bill M.

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 10:21am

In reply to by Robert C. Jones


That is an interesting perspective worth considering. I don't like labeling people, I find Colin Gray's comments that some people can never be strategists as excessively vain and self-serving. However, the military doesn't reward strategic thinking. They want us to develop a quick answer using a doctrinal process. That is what gets rewarded. Dumbing things down to three PowerPoint slides or a one page staff summary is what our bosses want. Put a few logical lines of efforts on those charts, and they're convinced it is brilliant. We have all seen the awe our fellow staff officers embrace (especially at your locale) a particular PowerPoint chart, and want everyone else to use the same format. No thinking required. We still produce industrial age thinkers, where the process dictates all. I want more officers around me that ask the irritating question why? why? why? Debate it, get to a point your ideas are seriously challenged and if you come back to the same answer you're probably close to being on track (for that moment in time).

Robert C. Jones

Wed, 04/08/2015 - 6:07am

In reply to by thedrosophil

"Second, we appear to differ on what constitutes a "serious strategist". I would argue that "if it doesn't look, swim, or quack like a duck, then it's not a duck". The Pentagon employs plenty of campaign planners masquerading as "strategists" who are neither trained in strategy , nor are they empowered to "develop" anything recognizable as strategy. As such, I'm suggesting that few if any "serious strategists" are currently working in government service."

Beyond the limitations created by the relative roles of strategists within various organizations, there is a much larger problem that in a doctrine-driven organization like the military few are willing to admit: Strategy can only be done at a rudimentary level, regardless of training and experience, if one lacks an aptitude for strategic art.

I could go to art school and paint, draw, etc for the rest of my life and never be more than a technician at it. Same with music. These are practices that require talent to advance. Yet we do not recognize this about strategy. I think of strategy as having three levels, and most professional "strategists" - be they military, college professors, or at the NSC, operate at level one. They may be extremely smart, highly trained, and possessed of tremendous experience (though many are merely assigned to a strategy billet and therefore labeled "strategist"), but without aptitude, they will be forever a level one strategist. The converse of this, of course, is that one with aptitude may have far less training and experience, but will instinctively be a much better strategist, but will operate their talent in raw, unstructured ways.

So for me, level one is "Strategic Knowledge" and this is where most professionals reside. They can quote Clausewitz chapter and verse, but most don't really appreciate how he came to his conclusions, nor are they able to continue to "play" when the sheet music changes from carefully choreographed notes to mere chord changes.

Level two is "Strategic Understanding." The key to admission at this level is aptitude. One must also have training, knowledge and experience, but without aptitude one will never really get there.

Level three is largely aspirational, but I think of it as "Strategic Wisdom." For me this is the holy grail of strategy, to not merely know, to move beyond understand, to actually have the wisdom to apply that understanding in a complex world to attain desired effects. Solomon did not pray for riches or knowledge - he (wisely) asked for wisdom.

Now, the military has a unique problem, as we think of strategy in hierarchical terms. Also, people with strategic aptitude are a major pain in the ass when they are junior in rank in such a hierarchical system. We are also an organization that prizes quick decisions and decisive action without debate. Strategists tend to ponder things, see many options for executing them, and to ask questions. Point being, that in a very Darwinian way, there are few with strategic aptitude left in the system by the time the system decides one is senior enough to be "strategic."

There is a cure of course. We could and should test for strategic aptitude early, and then guard and nurture those with strategic talent as they compete with their more practical peers. One implication of this is that by far, most flag officers are level one strategists. By percentage, there are far more strategists at an officer basic course than there are in war college class. We can fix this, but step one to fixing a problem is to recognize and accept that it exists.

Bill M.

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 10:58pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

If it my toes step away. The pain will help me confront my conflicted demons. Regarding military schools and their views on strategy, that comment may be correct,but since our strategy is mostly crafted by civilians with impressive academic credentials does it matter?


Mon, 04/06/2015 - 10:19pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Bill: Appreciate the modification, though I still think you're placing me too squarely in the "academic" box. May take me a day or two to formulate a response, as I'm likely to step on some toes and want to do so as gently and precisely as possible.

Bill M.

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 6:50pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

Short response, first off I modified the school book comment an apologize for it. However grand strategy comes from the top whether we or Gen Scales likes it is somewhat irrelevant. It is stii the strategy.

The rebalance isn't dead, and from a military perspective much of it has already happened. Priorities? What area from a strategic long term perspective is more important to our national interests than East Asia? Yes we have 5 meter targets in the Middle East that must be addressed, but in lieu of a regional strategy that is mostly crisis rresponse. Russia is certainly a major concern. Again no discernable strategy. Our long term economic interests are principally in east Asia. Our near term security interests are in the Middle East. Our potential existential threat currently is Russian nukes. The international system we seek to defend and promote is being challenged around the world.

I agree we are driving blind, but that doesn't mean our strategic documents are irrelevant, they're just inadequate.


Mon, 04/06/2015 - 5:45pm

In reply to by Bill M.

Respectfully disagree, Bill. Point by point:

1) I would be curious to know which strategists you follow of who consider climate change to be a legitimate strategic threat. Most of those I know who do mention it are left wing political commentators. I know of a few serious strategists who cite resource scarcity as a potential concern, but have heard others present compelling cases to the contrary. Very rarely have I heard climate change brought up in discussions, even among "serious strategists" who are "developing strategy".

2) By your definition, "serious strategists" who are "developing strategy" are constrained by the electoral priorities of the Commander-in-Chief (and General McChrystal's ouster is the most prominent recent example of what happens to officers who publicly differ with the C-in-C). As you may remember, I have also been openly critical of the strategic education that the war colleges currently provide to the officer corps. At the risk of legitimizing career academics (who have their own setbacks on the other side of the spectrum), they have the virtue of being able to speak more openly. I also believe there's sufficient evidence to suggest that more analytical rigor takes place in academia than in the institutions that teach strategic thinking to the bulk of the American officer corps. Per retired MGEN Robert Scales, <A HREF="… on the White House's late 2013 Syria initiative</A> (and certainly not an ivory tower academic himself):

<BLOCKQUOTE>"They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense. None of the White House staff has any experience in war or understands it. So far, at least, this path to war violates every principle of war, including the element of surprise, achieving mass and having a clearly defined and obtainable objective."</BLOCKQUOTE>

MGEN Scales also wrote <A HREF="… article</A> for WOTR last year, and I would also encourage you to peruse <A HREF="">this RAND study</A> on the same topic.

3) I simply disagree with your appraisal of the various strategic documents, their value, and the reasons why some communities of interest pay attention to them. For example, you correctly state that the 2012 DSG articulated the rebalance/"pivot", but that guidance was panned as a strategy-free election year talking point upon its release, and the proposed "pivot" has fallen apart due to actual strategic priorities in the Middle East and elsewhere. I agree that close attention is paid to the strategic documents in question, but I suspect we differ on the reasons why: I propose that they are studied primarily because they outline the C-in-C's goals (such as they are), rather than actual strategic priorities. I would recommend <A HREF="… post from the Ink Spots blog on the 2010 NSS</A> (the pseudonymous author, "Gulliver", is a practitioner, not an academic), and listen to <A HREF="‎">this recent lecture</A> by noted strategist Dr. Lawrence Freedman, who is similarly dismissive of the various national strategic documents.

4) Finally, this comment...

<BLOCKQUOTE>"Time to move past your school books if you're going to make comments with such confidence."</BLOCKQUOTE>

... is the kind of closed-minded, anti-intellectual nonsense that I would expect from others in this community, and I'm surprised to have read it from you, Bill. I'm quite comfortable with my mix of academic and operational experience, and it's unfortunate that you would deem that broad background as a detriment rather than an asset.

Bill M.

Mon, 04/06/2015 - 5:38pm

In reply to by thedrosophil

Oddly enough I'm not aware of serious strategists that dismiss climate change. Furthermore the 2012 defense guidance articulated the rebalance to Asia, which created debate, but it also resulted in a rebalancing of military forces. Time to move past the academic debates you participated in and enter the real world where academic theories quickly crumble in the face of reality. I found your previous comment that serious strategists didn take Sec Hagel serious, implying strategists would ignore national leadership and pursue their own independent strategy. That demonstrates a lack of understanding of how our admittedly dysfunctional system works. The strategic documents you scuff at are taken quite seriously by serious strategists. That means those developing strategy, not academics criticizing those who do. You said they were political, and you are correct, all strategy is. They are also communications documents, and they are also serious strategic guidance. The detailed strategies are the sub strategies.

As for global warming, unless scientists around the world are caught up in group think or are collaborating in a major scam that is a hard pill to swallow. If the data provided was intentionally deceptive it will be a major blow to the credibility of science as a discipline that Will major long term and negative effects.


Mon, 04/06/2015 - 1:36pm

In reply to by Geoffrey Demarest

I'm largely in agreement with many of Move Forward's points. Without getting into detail, I'm increasingly skeptical of "global warming" and/or "climate change" after having been effectively indoctrinated prior to my undergrad years to believe that it was settled science. (I was then introduced to the late Michael Crichton's fantastic speech, "Aliens Cause Global Warming", which introduced me to a wider problem of compromised science being used to justify existing policy priorities). Since then, there's been much to corroborate my skepticism, and little to mitigate it. As an avid historian, I take some solace in the fact that the most alarmist predictions are not particularly severe by long-term historical standards, and also in the knowledge that humans have traditionally done a reasonably good job of adapting to cyclic changes in environmental conditions.

With respect to the strategic concerns, I'm equally skeptical, and my impression is that most serious strategists appear to share that skepticism. Many of the supposed concerns are challenges that the world is likely to face anyway: the need for better amphibious capabilities and diversified energy sources, miniscule changes in the global landscape, keeping abreast of slight changes to geography, an increased risk of instability, and the like. In my view, this does not represent such a significant strategic risk that it merits disproportionate consideration; rather, it merits the sort of technological innovation, operational flexibility, and global situational awareness that have been the hallmark of Western (and Western-aligned) strategic success in recent decades and centuries. As such, it seems that national resources would be better applied to adaptation or resilience to changing circumstances, rather than to trying to stop natural processes for which anthropogenism is, at best, questionable.

<B>Addendum:</B> I'm also surprised that the author takes the 2015 NSS and APS so seriously. The 2010 and 2015 NSS' and the 2012 "Defense Strategic Guidance" have been widely dismissed as electioneering masquerading as strategy. Documents such as the APS which proceed from it ought to be considered comparably as cases of "garbage in, garbage out". That the White House is more fixated upon global warming as a matter of political ideology than it is with the threats of terrorism or international instability, and that the services align along the White House's goals, should be as evidence of neither the existence nor the strategic criticality of climate change.

Bill M.

Sat, 04/04/2015 - 5:39pm

In reply to by Geoffrey Demarest

The impact of climate change is real and has significant national security implications. It is already leading to mass migration, food and water security issues, and a major propaganda contest funded on one side by industrialists and on the other side by the far left. This propaganda contest has distorted the truth and politicized the issue to the point a serious conversation on the topic is near impossible. The propaganda promoted by the left and the right has created a situation where most of can't discern the facts anymore. How do you make intelligent assumptions based on propaganda?

Regardless, from a military readiness perspective, the military needs to retain and enhance its stability operations capabilities and capacity. The challenge is determining how to do that after years of the military letting its conventional combat skills erode while the risk of conventional war increases and ongoing downsizing of the military. the military must rebuild its conventional combat capability (probably the highest priority), so that leaves little time and money for preparing for stability operations in the near term.

Climate change is only one variable in an increasingly uncertain and unstable world, but the end result of all the variables is uncertainty. The requirement is readiness for a wide range of contingencies, which translates into a wide range of skills the joint force must maintain and/or develop. Our excessive focus on high technology solutions in lieu of force structure will more than likely result in failure, at least initially, once again. Money talks, and the military-industrial complex ultimately influences Congress more than real security concerns.

Move Forward

Thu, 04/02/2015 - 4:03pm

In reply to by Geoffrey Demarest

<blockquote><strong>1. – Is the world warming?</strong></blockquote>
Perhaps, but many in the Northeast U.S. experienced record snowfall. That leads to the global warming question of, “so what?” Many areas of the world are far hotter than other areas yet humans get by just fine. If it creates localized problems such as desertification and local unrest due to heat, drought, or rising oceans and other climate change, other areas likely will benefit from warming temperatures to expand growing seasons and make life there more habitable. People can and will move.

In any event, the U.S. will agree via Presidential Executive Action to cut U.S. emissions by 26-28% by 2025 while China won’t end its rise in CO2 growth until 2030. This of course bypasses the treaty process and requires no Senate ratifications or Congressional laws. But this article shows that the U.S. as the second worst world CO2 emitter is only responsible for 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions while China is the worst offender at 29% and growing. Thus even if we and other nations cut emissions at huge expense, sans the nuclear energy solution that other nations like France still exploit, the 3rd world nations will continue to rise in the world’s share of CO2 emitters.…

In addition to that article, I thought this recent article provided a great summary of the CO2 challenge if it is legitimate. It says the world needs to reduce CO2 by an average of 6% a year to keep global warming at a reasonable level. It even provides a chart showing the current reductions by the U.S. and more advanced nations versus what is required to reach a worldwide 6% a year.

The problem is that if you look at the graph in that link, China, the world’s largest CO2 emitter, does not even need to start reducing its overall emissions until 2030. If the world’s worst offender is not hitting its 6% annual reduction until 2030, the U.S. with 15% of the world’s CO2 emissions and declining is not going to overcome China’s increases in CO2 in the 15 years until 2030 when China claims its CO2 emissions will finally start to decline. You also can bet China’s subsequent reductions won’t be at 6% annually of what by that time may be close to half the world’s CO2 emissions.

<blockquote><strong>2. Is climate change happening at a pace and rhythm dangerous to humans and the world, and more particularly to US national security?</strong> </blockquote>

Environmentalists cleverly changed the threat from global warming to climate change that could involve either localized upward or downward movement in temperature. It also could mean more droughts in places like California, and perhaps severe hurricanes, tornadoes, and other local weather changes. But recall that a few decades back we were being warned about a new ice age. If desertification is the worry, blame China where both its own policies and perhaps those of India have increased CO2 dramatically and that CO2 moves east to our west coast. In this National Geographic simulation you see how CO2 emitted from China travels in the north to the east and is worst in the winter time when plant life is dormant, and is reduced in the spring and summer when plants grow.…

So if California has a water crisis that won’t change because China and India will continue to have large populations emitting both human CO2 and from their cars, power plants, and factories, why will we further punish Californians with higher energy prices to go along with high real estate and taxes? California already has Hetch Hetchy to move water via canal from the mountains to cities. Perhaps we build more such canals coming from Washington State and Oregon which seemingly have no shortage of water.

<blockquote><strong>3. Is the principle culprit of global climate change carbon dioxide?</strong> There is little evidence that the predictable level of increase of CO2 is directly harmful. There seems to be as much evidence that it might be a good thing. Increases in carbon dioxide might be a reason for increased global plant growth, for instance.</blockquote>

As you cite, CO2 is good for plants. We all learned in grade school about photosynthesis and that plants absorb CO2 and emit oxygen which seemingly would help overcome local pollution. Why not use the National Guard and active Army to plant new vegetation on bases and federal lands, particularly plant species that use little water and actually absorb heat when exposed to excess CO2. Force private frackers drilling on federal lands to plant trees and use fracking water to irrigate them after it raises oil. Isn’t that a less expensive proposition than trying to bury CO2 as some suggest?

Entire nations such as the Netherlands, and cities like New Orleans are below sea level and find means of overcoming that challenge. If the real challenges involve sea level rises, then the National Guard, active Army, and Army Corps of Engineers could use 3D printers to construct barriers near shore lines filled with ocean sand or other rocks and rubble.

<blockquote><strong>4. Is global climate change having an appreciable or predictable effect on US national security and is there something special we should and could do about it?</strong>
This question is the punch line and reason for this tiresome blog post. My answer is no, not from a landpower standpoint. There does not appear to be enough substance to the global climate change warning to, at this time, move any part of our DOTMLPF…… The future of US landpower is not linked to global warming, or at least not according to the current state of the science. Global warming is also not a significant ‘driver’ of pertinent changes in the foreseeable operating environment. Of course there may be exceptions.</blockquote>

Tend to agree. As stated in my initial paragraph, local operational environments may change such as increased desert warfare. But if warfare creates refugees, so will climate change. That could be a a source of conflict, or it could be a boon to people who finally give up living in deserts and disperse to other more habitable areas. Drought may be the most serious issue for the U.S. and other areas. But it is hard to envision any area being more adversely affected by climate change locally than the result if exposed to a nuclear explosion. That instant localized increase in temperature is far more likely to occur somewhere to affect our military well before any gradual temperatures rises lead to a conflict.

However, the major issue is priorities for federal budgets and costs of energy. If Democratic administrations continue to get elected and push the climate change agenda, it likely will increase energy costs and divert tax resources away from the military and toward the fool’s errand of trying to change the world’s climate. When we are responsible for only 15% of the world’s CO2 problem and that declines to even lower levels while China’s contribution increases now through 2030, their economy will reap the benefits of lower energy costs, its economy will thrive, and that will enable higher defense budgets and a larger share of world commerce.

Geoffrey Demarest

Wed, 04/01/2015 - 1:41pm

Meh. Pitiful, I again comment on one of my own posts. My little feelings were hurt that nobody took up the call to consider what we should do about the threat of anthropogenic global warming, when, as if to my rescue, the 2015 National Security Strategy and the 2015 Army Posture Statements arrived in my inbox.

Our strategic leadership considers global climate change to be one of the “top strategic risks” to our interests. Climate change is mentioned more than fifteen times and earns its own section in the NSS document. Among other measures, our government is committed to cementing an international consensus on “arresting climate change.”

I guess I understand why SWJ readers might prefer to steer clear of commenting on our military’s appropriate role in this matter. Thankfully, the 2015 Army Posture Statement may be answering for us, revealing as it seems a less than complete acknowledgement of the threat. So maybe there is hope. The APS mentions “deleterious effects of climate change” but makes only a by-the-way note about actions that will enhance the Army’s ability to “mitigate and adapt” to those effects.

We can safely suppose deleterious effects of climate change will happen somewhere irrespective of how much the climate warms or doesn’t or how fast. It is much different, however, to accept a role in the mitigation and adaptation to something certain, than it is to commit to arresting something fabulous.