How Climate Collapse Will Overwhelm The U.S. Military, by Rainer Shea

Earth on our Hands

Image by Cristian Ibarra Santillan via Flickr

by Rainer Shea
Writer, Dandelion Salad
Rainer Shea: Anti-Imperialist Journalist, Apr. 28, 2021
May 5, 2021

The story of the climate’s deterioration is intertwined with the story of class conflict, with the battle between the revolutionaries and the counterrevolutionaries. Much to the chagrin of U.S. national security technocrats, factors show that the instability and destruction from the climate collapse is most likely going to harm the strategic interests of the counterrevolutionaries far more than those of the revolutionaries.

This is partly shown in the fact that the world’s capitalist states, due to the dysfunctionality and social instability they’ve taken on from embracing neoliberalism, are going to be much more susceptible to global warming’s destabilizing effects than the socialist states will be. Notice how in an interview from last year, the author and military expert Michael Klare only lists capitalist countries in his examples of the first places where governmental breakdown will likely occur within this century:

“The title of my book is All Hell Breaking Loose, and what that refers to is a time in the not-too-distant future. Not right away, but 10, 20 years down the line when all these horrible things are going to start happening simultaneously. The collapse of major states, like Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia. It’s very clear from the literature that people in the Defense Department and in the intelligence community are aware that all of this is going to happen. What happens when you have states collapsing, multiple wars happening in the Middle East and Africa and South America, and many hurricanes and disasters in the United States all at the same time? The US military doesn’t have enough troops or resources to both defend the United States and to address all of these foreign catastrophes. That’s what I call an all-hell-breaking-loose scenario, and the Pentagon knows very well that US forces aren’t prepared or capable to deal with it.”

In the coming decades, as the U.S. imperialists lose both major neo-colonies like India and major client states like Saudi Arabia, the situation within their own borders will also be one where the continued existence of the capitalist state gets thrown into question. Due to its unparalleled investment in military buildup, the United States is the most vulnerable country among the global imperialist bloc (and likely among an even wider array of capitalist countries) when it comes to destabilizing events. The last year has shown this. Being the only industrialized country in the world without some form of universal healthcare system, and being especially lacking in a social safety net and workers rights as compared to social democratic imperialist powers like Norway and Denmark, the U.S. has lacked the means to protect its people from the pandemic, and consequently become the country with by far the most Covid-19 deaths.

This weakness within the social fabric of the imperial center will carry through into the far worse crises global warming will bring in the next several decades, with these weaknesses no doubt being more pronounced by then due to the country’s ongoing descent into neoliberal austerity. The hunger, homelessness, bankruptcy, and severe consumer debt that we’ve seen balloon within the U.S. in the last year will get far more severe, leading to the potential for growth of the proletarian revolutionary movement within the country’s borders.

And when the time comes for the U.S. military to intervene in an attempt to put down a class revolt and retain stability amid worsening natural disasters — a scenario which U.S. military experts have been very seriously anticipating will be realized — the armed forces will find themselves severely strained. This is what’s hinted at by Klare’s conclusions about the fate of the military’s infrastructure within the country itself:

“An awful lot of US military bases are highly exposed and are at great risk from the effects of climate change. Virtually every East Coast naval base is eventually going to be underwater, and nobody is willing to say out loud what the cost of relocation is going to be. For example, the Naval Academy at Annapolis is already flooded on a regular basis, and it won’t be long before that will be underwater year-round. Even though people in the Navy are aware of this, the magnitude of the threat is so great that nobody is willing to say out loud what really has to be done to address it.”

According to Klare, this is the extent to which the military is truly preparing for the ways that global warming will cripple its means to operate. The responses from the military that he describes consist either of halfhearted efforts to reduce the military’s carbon emissions, or of defeated acknowledgments about the limitations that the world’s more widespread extreme heat will create upon the ability of U.S. troops and helicopters to move. Not talking about it appears to fill up a lot of the rest of their response. The U.S. will eventually be forced to largely withdraw from Africa and southwest Asia, though this event will come at the cost of these regions also becoming largely uninhabitable for their indigenous residents.

As the imperialist powers reckon with unprecedented refugee crises, pandemics that will likely be worse than Covid-19, agricultural collapse, economic havoc from the climate crisis, breakdowns of the power grid that at least in the U.S. will be undoubtedly severe, and droughts that military technocrats anticipate will prompt water wars, there’s going to be a confrontation between the crippled forces of the capitalist state and an unruly populous.

When the military gets sent in to quell this uprising, the material limitations imposed upon it by climate collapse will make this domestic intervention dysfunctional, however well it’s planned. Even with the Pentagon’s massive budget, its funding capacity falls far below what will be required for keeping U.S. forces fully operational in the midst of the water shortages troops will be facing by 2040 alone; according to a 2019 Pentagon report, this desperately needed windfall would be major investments in technology which locally captures water for U.S. forces. Without water collection tools of this scale, which are evidently too large for even history’s mightiest empire to attain, Washington will have no choice but to shrink its military presence both abroad and at home.

The U.S. military’s problem is that it’s overstretched, a dilemma that will likely also apply to the armed forces of the U.S. allies which will be sent in to try to help crush a hypothetical near-future revolutionary insurgency. Late-stage capitalism’s contradictions are going to become so destabilizing for the countries in the imperialist bloc that they’ll struggle to contain class uprisings, like how Washington has struggled to contain the Taliban despite the Taliban being so outgunned. Climate crisis and neoliberal chaos are the variables that will cripple the forces of counterrevolution. If we revolutionaries make our moves strategically, we’ll be able to use these variables to our advantage instead of getting crushed by the state’s initial counterinsurgency effort.

Rainer uses the written word to deconstruct establishment propaganda and to promote meaningful political action. His articles can also be found at Revolution Dispatch.

If you appreciate my work, I hope you become a one-time or regular donor to my Patreon account. Like most of us, I’m feeling the economic pinch during late-stage capitalism, and I need money to keep fighting for a new system that works for all of us. Go to my Patreon here. Follow Rainer on Twitter, Youtube and Medium.

From the archives:

Abby Martin: Biden’s Obscene Military Budget

The Intensification of Colonial Genocide Will Blow Back, by Rainer Shea

How America’s Descent Into A Failed State Will Happen, by Rainer Shea

Humans, Nature and the Illusion of Separateness, by Kenn Orphan

Peter Carter: Are “Net-Zero” Emissions a Smoke Screen?