Three retired generals, including Wesley Clark, visited Des Moines on Wednesday to make the case for the Renewable Fuel Standard, linking its success to America’s national security. On a trip through Iowa as part of the Vote Vets campaign, the three laid out the real world impacts they’ve seen caused by an over-reliance on foreign oil.
“My experience in Iraq has taught me that our addiction to oil is putting our soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines at tremendous risk overseas,” said retired Brigadier General Steven Anderson, who coordinated logistical supplies in Iraq. He estimated that at least 1,200 American military personnel died in Iraq and Afghanistan while transporting carbon-based fuel.
Both Anderson and Clark asserted that the global climate change caused in large part by carbon-based fuel is exacerbating conflict in the Middle East and Africa. That’s a point that Martin O’Malley got into a high-profile tussle with several national Republicans this week after stating the well-researched idea that climate issues contributed to the Syrian conflict and ISIS.
“One of the things that preceded the failure of the nation state of Syria and the rise of ISIS was the effect of climate change and the mega-drought that affected that nation, wiped out farmers, drove people to cities, created a humanitarian crisis that created the symptoms—or rather, the conditions—of extreme poverty that has led now to the rise of ISIS and this extreme violence,” O’Malley said on Monday.
While avoiding commenting on individuals in the presidential primary, the generals backed up the research and observations behind that idea.
“We know the conflict in Syria was caused in part by the impact of drought,” former four-star General Wesley Clark said. “If you look across the Sahel region of Africa, you can see changes in economic activity, you can see the migration of tribes, and you can see conflict. From the west to the east, from Mali, from Senegal, to Niger, all the way across to Somalia and Kenya. As drought has set in people move and are dislocated … They fall prey to conflict and especially to the seduction of terrorists. Climate change is a national security issue and it has to be addressed, and an important part of that is following through on the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
“We can see with our own eyes the impact of climate change,” stated Anderson, who noted he’s a conservative Republican. “Not only does it threaten us because potentially our energy sources might be in more hostile environments … but because of CO2 emissions it’s increasing instability all over the world. It’s setting conditions where for unrest, for discontent, for situations like in Syria. Did climate change drive the issue in Syria, cause the war? No, but it set conditions because of a lack of water, a lack of food … And when that happens, the opportunities for soldiers, air men, sailors and marines to go to fight and die somewhere is increased.”
Republicans were quick to pounce on O’Malley’s words this week, with RNC Chair Reince Priebus even releasing a statement calling it an “absurd claim.” Other Republican presidential candidates chimed in too, with Rick Santorum saying the idea was a “disconnect from reality” and Bobby Jindal criticizing him as well.
“If Republicans want to have a debate about either foreign policy or science, we have a message for them: bring it on,” replied O’Malley Deputy Campaign Manager Lis Smith. “When faced with cold, hard scientific facts, they bury their heads in the sand and deny the adverse effects of climate change on the planet. Is it any surprise that Donald Trump is leading the pack?
The generals focused in on America’s ability to create its own fuel and energy supplies as an important solution to both foreign policy concerns and climate issues.
“Unfettered access to energy is a vital national interest regardless of the country,” said retired Major General Paul Eaton. He noted that the real cost of a gallon of gasoline is actually considerably higher because of how much money America spends keeping sea lanes for shipping oil open. “Everything we do on the Renewable Fuel Standard is going to help ensure access to energy.”
“The Gulf War, the invasion of Iraq, Afghanistan: it’s all attributable directly or indirectly to America’s strategic dependence on imported oil,” argued Clark, once a Democratic presidential candidate back in 2004, adding that that he’s been predicting since 1973 that reliance on oil would suck America into more conflicts in the Middle East. “For that there’s nothing better than the Renewable Fuel Standard. It is the smartest, best energy strategy that America has ever devised. It was passed under the administration of President George W. Bush, it had bipartisan support in the United States Congress. And now the implementation, the follow-through is being questioned. By who? By the people whose economic interest want us to remain addicted to imported foreign oil. They’re using legal methods, political methods, they’re using advertising in the public.”
by Pat Rynard