Sunday, April 25, 2010

Reflections on QDR 2010 and CO2 Emissions

The mission of the Defense Department is “to protect American people and advance the US interest,” which are security, prosperity, broad respect for universal values, and an international order. Promoting such an order is assumed to advance US interests by reinforcing the rights and responsibilities of all nations. How the US will do that?

The new Quadrennial Defense Review Report, a congressionally mandated review of national security strategy prepared every four years, released in February 2010 QDR gives the answer: America’s interests and role in the world require “armed forces with unmatched capabilities and a willingness on the part of the nation to employ them in defense of our interests and the common good.” And that “the initiatives described in the QDR are designed to significantly enhance the ability of US forces to protect and advance US interests in both the near and longer term.”

In order to defend and advance American national interests the DoD balances resources and risk among four priority objectives: prevail in today’s wars, prevent and deter conflict (means preventing the rise of threats to US interests), prepare to defeat adversaries and succeed in a wide range of contingencies, and preserve and enhance the all-volunteer force.

The QDR 2010 is meant to be a truly wartime QDR, since the US is “a nation at war.” This is why the QDR gives emphasis on “ensuring the DoD does everything possible to enable success in today’s wars while preparing for a complex and uncertain future.” Yes, not only the US but the world faces a complex and uncertain security landscape in which the pace of change continues to accelerate. The distribution of global political, economic, and military power is becoming more diffuse. The QDR recognizes that the rise of China and India will “continue to shape an international system that is no longer easily defined—one in which the US will remain the most powerful actor but must increasingly work with key allies and partners if it is to sustain stability and peace.” This means that QDR believes the center of global political gravity is shifting to Asia.

The QDR clearly states that “the role of the DoD is to field, sustain, and employ the military capabilities needed to protect the US and its allies and to advance American interests. In order to fulfill this role, the Department must continually assess how America’s Armed Forces are evolving in relation to the wartime demands of today and the expected character of future challenges.”

The QDR also emphasizes that the US “is a global power with global responsibilities. Including operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, approximately 400,000 U.S. military personnel are forward-stationed or rotationally deployed every day around the world to help sustain U.S. capacity for global reach and power projection.” Who gives the US this responsibility is not discussed in the report. For the US, I guess, it is self evident, like consuming cheap gasoline is considered as a birthright.

Two other points stroke me in the QDR: First, “America’s men and women in uniform should never be put at risk absent a clear mission and a realistic and sufficiently resourced plan to succeed.” Good morning the DoD! Second one is on reforming how the DoD buys: “There are too many programs under way. We cannot afford everything we might desire” Again, good morning!

Now let me focus on the subject that interests me most: Energy, which is dealt in the QDR under the heading Crafting a Strategic Approach to Climate and Energy.

The US military sees climate change as a global security threat: “Climate change and energy will play significant roles in the future security environment.” Climate change is argued to affect DoD in two broad ways. First, it will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that DoD undertakes. Second, while climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. The QDR claims that “DoD will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on its facilities and military capabilities.” While talking about the national security effects of climate it gives special emphasis to the Artic. And while talking about military end users it recommends R&D programs, innovative energy and conservation technologies to be mobilized from laboratories to consumers by using military installations as a test bed.

"The Department is increasing its use of renewable energy supplies and reducing energy demand to improve operational effectiveness, reduce greenhouse gas emissions in support of U.S. climate change initiatives, and protect the Department from energy price fluctuations."

The QDR is claimed to be analytically grounded and strategy driven. In my opinion the QDR is (eco)logically unsound, simply because it confuses sound arguments with hard truths. America is a nation at war. And this war is also a war against the Earth, against the soil, plants, animals, water, not to mention people living in it. Therefore when the QDR and other DoD reports talk about climate change and global warming they should not ignore the military’s contribution to the adverse effects of the war on the Earth. Yes, climate change is argued to be one of the most important threats to global security in the future. How about the threat of current wars to global environment? War means (by the US) destruction, destruction means bombs, bombs mean toxic material, and toxic material means environmental devastation. Wars kill this defenseless planet.

The DoD is the largest single polluter in the world. Its carbon bootprint is much larger than most of the countries in the world. Just to give one simple example: the average American uses 500 gallons of gasoline every year. This is equivalent to what a B-52 Bomber uses in one minute. So, making the killing machines more energy efficient won’t solve energy and environment problem issues raised in the QDR. Not only the QDR but all military postures must mention that the military and use of it is a threat to global environmental. The US military strategy thinking must move away from Clausewitzian war.

The DOD is the largest emitter of the government, around three-quarters of all Federal emissions. Therefore, the DoD must be sincere about its real thoughts on climate change and environment.

Yes, DoD has several obligations to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Lately, President Barack Obama announced in January 2010 that the Federal Government will reduce its GHG emissions by 28 percent by 2020. Reducing and reporting GHG pollution, as called for in Executive Order 13514 of October 2009, is hoped to ensure that the Federal Government leads by example in building the clean energy economy. Note that the DoD has set a goal of cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2015, after a 2007 executive order by President Bush required federal agencies to reduce their energy intensity.

Why all is this hypocrisy? Hypocrisy BECAUSE, the US military emissions abroad are exempt from national reporting requirements under US law and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Why military emissions in international airspace or on high seas as well as emissions from multilateral military operations are exempted from the international reporting obligations? Why the UNFCC makes so much fuzz about CO2 emissions and at the same time grants the military the license to pollute?


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