Tuesday, 9 November 2010

The military industrial complex and the fight against climate change

During the cold war, there was a certain, albeit limited, benefit to having our arms industries.  The basis for that logic was that the Cold War was fundamentally a battle of ideologies. Each side was largely self sufficient in oil and food during much of this period and it was therefore in their interests to maintain a status quo for as long as possible as this status quo guaranteed their survival.

Today’s world is much more dangerous. The Arms Race continues unabated, but the main protagonists China, Russia and the US along with their respective allies and proxies are all essentially market economies and all are struggling to secure the same resources such as food and oil for their very existence. Thus it is not in the interests of any side to maintain a status-quo, but to beat their opponents to critical resources before their strength diminishes. This is a far more dangerous scenario than the cold war ever was.

Against today's deadly background, all sides are building up their strategic forces and increasing operations and patrols. This situation becomes more unstable due to the types of weapons each side is deploying, such as supersonic anti-ship missiles, which can unleash mass death in seconds and tilt the calculus of success to the person who makes the first strike.

This combined pressure of resource shortages, ecological collapse and military instability is leading to a self reinforcing arms race. This will overwhelm us all and the tension and mistrust it generates will prevent the extremely difficult international dialogue on climate change.

In the UK Trident replacement debate, it is clear to see how this single act will derail any possibility of the UK meeting its climate change targets or securing an international agreement on climate change.
Once Trident is deployed, the Russians and possibly the Chinese will respond with hunter killer submarine patrols of their own. This is already happening with Russian Akula submarines being reported off Scotland as they try to track existing Trident submarines.  As a consequence, the UK will require a fleet of its own hunter killer submarines and surface ships to track and threaten Russian attack submarines, so we will need a much expanded Navy. The Navy will need air protection, so we need a much expanded Air Force. The Air Force will need air bases and fuel, so we need an army to secure fuel supplies and air bases. All the additional military forces will need a specialised industry, so we need an industrial complex. The industrial complex will have to be fed with new civil work and projects to sustain it.

Our opponents will go through the same logic and reach the same conclusions. All this will consume the critical resources that we are already going to war around the world to secure, and any agreement to curtail CO2 emissions would prevent operation and manufacture of the arms that are needed to win the race that has been unwittingly entered.

To add further risk, the conventional force build up that is needed for the nuclear protection can then be used to threaten any other nation.

Meanwhile tensions increase as the scramble for the last remaining resources continues and the climate collapses. Simultaneous with the escalating the damage this race causes, the most powerful corporate organisations and government officials in the world profiteer as the rest of the planet is forced into a race to the bottom. 

It is in the vital interest of every single person on this planet to stop the military industrial complex. No amount of wishful thinking or investment in renewables will be able to offset the damage done.