Politics & Policy

The Greatest Threat to Peace

An Air Force F-22 Raptor approaches for a mid-air refueling maneuver.
Burning carbon is good for America’s national security.

Last week, the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), led by former Democratic representative Lee Hamilton and former Republican senator Warren Rudman, released a letter signed by 36 other formerly important people insisting that the United States must take action on climate change for national-security reasons. The letter begins:

The effect of climate change in the world’s most vulnerable regions present[s] a serious threat to American national security interests. As a matter of risk management, the United States must work with international partners, public and private, to address this impending crisis. . . . Both the Department of Defense and the State Department have identified climate change as a serious risk to American security and an agent of instability . . . Climate change impacts could spur mass migrations, influence civil conflict and ultimately lead to a more unpredictable world. . . .  Protecting U.S. interests under these conditions would progressively exhaust American military, diplomatic, and development resources . . . 

Etc., etc.

That is, global warming doesn’t just threaten the polar bears but is also endangering our troops. So if you care about our brave young men and women in uniform, our national defense, and world peace, get in line and support cap-and-trade.


Well, since the PSA letter’s distinguished signatories are not exactly what one might call original thinkers, it is of some interest to track down where the inspiration (i.e., funding) for this bunk is coming from. According to PSA’s website, its climate-change campaign is funded by a group called the Energy Foundation, which, according to its own website, is a joint project of a gaggle of environmentalist groups.

While comparatively recent in the current context, the use of ersatz national-security arguments to push the environmentalist agenda is not new. In particular, the pitch for restricting carbon use has an eerie resemblance to a similar argument promulgated in the 1960s for promoting population control.

At that time, the Campaign to Stop the Population Explosion — a project led by eugenics bankroller (and subsequent prime sponsor of the first Earth Day) Hugh Moore and Population Crisis Committee (PCC) founder General William Draper — was running lurid full-page ads in leading newspapers warning of all sorts of horrid consequences unless stern population-control measures were implemented in the U.S. and elsewhere. “Have you ever been mugged? Well you may be!” said one such ad, suggesting that aborting more of the poor would help fight crime.

This kind of stuff created a stir, but during the Cold War, the best way to get congressional support for anything, from Moon rockets to higher teacher pay, was to portray it as part of the fight against Communism. So Moore and Draper enlisted the support of Johnson-administration officials and PCC members defense secretary Robert S. McNamara and deputy national-security adviser Robert W. Komer. They went to Congress to argue that swelling populations in Third World countries would man the Communist world revolution, and they successfully lobbied lawmakers to make the imposition of population control a condition for U.S. foreign aid. As a result, since 1966, billions of dollars in U.S.-taxpayer money has been laundered through USAID to such groups as the Population Council and the International Planned Parenthood Federation to advise or run horrific campaigns of forced sterilizations or abortions, wrecking the lives of tens of millions of poor people in Asia, Africa, and South America.


These campaigns have done nothing to improve American national security. Far from it: As I document in my book Merchants of Despair, they may have contributed to the loss of the Vietnam War. In 1967, on the insistence of Komer, the Johnson administration decided to make U.S. famine aid to India conditional on acceptance of population control rather than support for the Vietnam War effort. More broadly, the crimes systematically committed under these USAID-funded programs have provided ample ammunition for anti-American propagandists of every description across the entire Third World. Yet they continue to this day, with $600 million budgeted for such purposes in FY 2012.


So now we have the global-warming hysterics insisting that U.S. national security and world peace depend upon restricting carbon use. Nothing could be more false. What the world needs most for its stability, and what the U.S. needs for its national security, is economic growth, which is driven first and foremost by expanded carbon use. Nothing could be more regressive than carbon taxes. Nothing could do more to help the world’s poor than to make fossil fuels cheap and plentiful. Nothing could do more harm to America’s national security than a carbon-restricted depressed economy that would make funding our military impossible. Nothing could do more to ensure the wherewithal for our national security than a cheap carbon-enabled economic boom.

But even beyond these clear material considerations, there is a deeper sense in which the PSA line could not be more wrong. This is that most wars, especially the worst wars, are caused not by poverty, but by destructive ideas. And perhaps the most destructive idea in history is that there is only so much to go around, and so others must be denied their share. It is this idea, enunciated for example by Hitler (“The laws of existence require uninterrupted killing, so that the better may live”), that caused two world wars in the 20th century, and that could cause another in the 21st, should the ideology of the carbon restrictionists be accepted.

Consider the following: If the myth that there is only so much carbon to go around is accepted, then from the point of view of non-Americans, for example the Chinese, it is unacceptable that the United States should continue to prosper — or even to exist. After all, as President Obama has frequently explained, we are only 4 percent of the world’s population, yet we use 25 percent of the fuel. Surely China should seek to put a stop to that. On the other hand, should America’s elites become true believers in the carbon-restrictionist dogma, then the rise of China’s economy can only be seen as a fatal threat to us. What horror, that the sons and daughters of Chinese peasants are now going to university, graduating as scientists and engineers, buying cars, and burning gas! Surely, we must put a stop to that.

Ideas have consequences. Myths can start wars. Germany never needed living space; it has a bigger population now than it did under the Third Reich, on much less land, yet it has a far higher living standard. But because the Germans believed they needed lebensraum, they launched a world war and supported a campaign of genocide. Far from harming the rest of the world — except through perverse campaigns like the population-control efforts — the United States has been its greatest benefactor. We are only 4 percent of the human race, yet for the past century we have been responsible for half of its inventions. If we were reduced to Third World living standards, these inventions would stop. Conversely, impoverished China has not contributed much in recent centuries. But if it successfully develops, its newly educated population will start making inventions that will greatly benefit us.

But the zero-sum ideology of the carbon restrictionists does not allow for a world of such progress and friendship. Instead, it demands a world of war of all against all.

That is why it is not carbon use, but environmentalism, that is a threat to peace.

— Dr. Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy, www.pioneerenergy.co, and the author of Energy Victory. His latest book, Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, was published last year by Encounter Books.

Robert Zubrin — Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics and of the Mars Society. His next book, The Case for Space: How the Revolution in Spaceflight Opens Up a Future of Limitless Possibility, will be published by Prometheus Books in 2019.

Most Popular


Political Theatrics

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Including all you whippersnappers under the age of 50), I’m writing this from somewhere over the Atlantic. At least I hope that’s ... Read More

The Real Reasons American Evangelicals Support Israel

It never fails. Whenever a Republican president makes a controversial or contentious move to support Israel -- such as moving the American embassy to Jerusalem, or yesterday’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights -- you’ll see various “explainers” and other stories that purport ... Read More
White House

Mueller Report Delivered to Attorney General

Special Counsel Robert Mueller on Friday evening delivered a report to attorney general William Barr detailing his nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Barr will now be tasked with deciding what information from the report ... Read More