“Climate Change Seen as Threat to U.S. Society,” announced a New York Times front-page headline on August 8. That might have been news, if climate-change deniers were still ruling the roost. Yet the pronouncement cannot be passed off as inconsequential. It originated, after all, from experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies. Climate change presents profound strategic challenges to the United States, according to writer John Broder.
The Middle East and global South, where Âviolent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemicsÂ will play out, are seen as likely venues for U.S. troop deployment within 20Â30 years. Â The Times article leaves unclear what U.S. soldiers would actually be doing in such situations other than humanitarian relief or Âmilitary intervention.ÂÂ
There is the suggestion that Âclimate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions.Â Training exercises last year at the National Defense University featured a simulated U. S. military response to flooding in Bangladesh and movement of migrants into India.
What line of reasoning extends from assumptions of traditional military scripts like invasions or defending the homeland to an understanding of why such wildly expanded and ill-defined missions are under consideration?Â A look at time-tested Marxist theory connects some dots.
There is, first, the matter of military forces. Says Engels, ÂThis public power exists in every state; it consists not merely of armed men but also of material adjuncts, prisons, and institutions of coercion of all kinds.ÂÂ Lenin explains how this came about: ÂA state arises, a special power is created, special bodies of armed men, and every revolution, by destroying the state apparatus, shows us the naked class struggle, clearly shows us how the ruling class strives to restore the special bodies of armed men which serve it.Â (ÂState and RevolutionÂ) So Â no surprise Â soldiers serve the state.
What then is the state? ÂThe executive [at least] of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie,Â according to the Communist Manifesto. For Engels, the state is Âa power, seemingly standing above society that would alleviate the conflict and keep it within the bounds of order,Âso that Âclasses with conflicting economic interests might not consume themselves and society in fruitless struggle. (ÂThe Origin of the FamilyÂ Â 6th edition) ÂThe state is a product and a manifestation of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms,Â adds Lenin. (ÂState and RevolutionÂ)
The state has real use for its military power tool. Again Lenin explains: ÂAll wars are inseparable from the political system that engenders them. The policy which a given state, a given class within that state, pursued for a long time before the war is inevitably continued by that same class during the war, the form of action alone being changed.” (Lenin, Collected Works, Vol.24, p.400, 1917.)
When the bourgeoisie state undertakes distant military adventures, it is pursuing policies fundamental to its essence. According to Lenin, “‘World domination’ is, to put it briefly, the substance of imperialist policy, of which imperialist war is the continuation.Â Â (Collected Works, Vol.23, p.35 1916)
His comments two years later serve to rationalize current U.S. military strategizing related to possible future foreign ventures in a climateÂchanged world. “Capitalism has concentrated the earth’s wealth in the hands of a few states and divided the world up to the last bit…Any further enrichment could take place only at the expense of others as the enrichment of one state at the expense of another. The issue could only be settled by force – and accordingly war between the world marauders became inevitable.” (Collected Works, Vol.28, p.80)