For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.

Richard Feynman

Consultant Dan

07 November 2010

Hillary Clinton, climate security and Australia-US military discussions

Like so many Australians, I have been watching ABC24 as Leigh Sales hosts a public Q&A session with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. When asked why the US wants access to military bases, Mrs Clinton answered that climate change will create security threats in the region.

This was not just rhetoric. As I have written before, American liberals are successfully starting to reframe national security in environmental terms.

This thinking was first included at the highest level of US military doctrine with the release of the current Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) in February 2010. Climate security thinking in Washington DC is being led by The Center for a New American Security (CNAS). CNAS was co-founded by Michèle Flournoy, who is President Obama’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy.

These issues will hopefully be on the agenda in the next 36 hours. Tonight and tomorrow Mrs Clinton will be joined by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd and Defense Minister Stephen Smith for the 25th anniversary annual Australia-United States Ministerial Consultations (AUSMIN). There will also be parallel consultations between the U.S. Combatant Commander, Pacific and the Australian Chief of Defence Force and their senior staff.

The US has a great deal to contribute to Australia’s thinking on climate security. Both military and Government need to be encouraged to catch up to the US. I am in discussions about holding a high-level meeting under the Chatham House rule next year in Canberra to assist this process.


Jesse [Wed 10 Nov 2010, 5:00PM] said:

This is a bit of a side note, re: US military bases in Australia. We’ve got to be watchful about how the US sets up bases here, how they build them and develop them (and what they do with their existing bases in Australia). Mark Gillem has a great book on the social, ecological and urban impacts of US military bases around the world – it’s called America Town. His focus is on Asia but similar issues could (and do) arise here. US Bases can become extremely low density SUV towns that are a wasteful drain on local communities, rather than a benefit to them.

Dan Cass [Thu 11 Nov 2010, 10:22PM] said:

Thanks for the interesting aside, Jesse.

I suspect the bases are not going to be huge because emerging military doctrines are focused on agility and technology (information and space) to achieve dominance and less focused on pre-deployment of big populations of soldiers.

The positive thing for our energy future is what ‘fuels’ my interest. When the American military-industrial complex starts to switch out of fossil fuels, that can profoundly change the political economy of energy forever.

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