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Why Elizabeth Warren's "Green Military" Plan Simply Isn't Good Enough

Politics Features Elizabeth Warren
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We don’t have to choose between a green military and an effective one. My plan will improve our service members’ readiness and safety, and achieve cost savings for American taxpayers. Together, we can fight climate change—and win.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) May 15, 2019

While it is typical to imagine that all climate change deniers are like pundits on Fox News or Republicans who simply refuse to believe (or, publicly state that they refuse to believe, irrespective of what they actually say or do in private) the science behind the unfolding climate apocalypse, the Democratic Party—that so-called softer party of capital—has been engaged in its own kind of climate change denial. While outwardly acknowledging the science behind climate change, the Democrats are engaged in what can only be called green chauvinism. While the people in the third world or global periphery are those that will face the harshest effects of climate apocalypse, the Democratic Party's response to climate change eschews internationalism entirely—focusing only on maintaining the welfare of those in the first world (and specifically, Americans) while acknowledging the vast majority of humanity as an afterthought or not at all.

This was evident in the short-lived but ultimately consequential debate surrounding Beto O'Rourke's plan for the U.S. to domestically decarbonize by 2050. Although the plan left China, India and the rest of the third world essentially no room to move towards the kind of slow-paced structural adjustment that O'Rourke's deadline provided the U.S., defenders of Beto's climate change plan prioritized the needs of US capital alone.

Basically, the world could stay below 2°C if emissions in the US/Europe decline steadily to near-zero by 2050. But in that scenario, China/India would have to make even more aggressive reductions, and the rest of the world could basically emit nothing. /5 pic.twitter.com/zv4ZTrg86J— brad plumer (@bradplumer) April 30, 2019

But green chauvinism has been best embodied in Elizabeth Warren’s plan for “greening” the U.S. military. Warren states in her latest policy proposal that, “[w]e don’t have to choose between a green military and an effective one,” without interrogating the actual role of the U.S. military in the world and how this relates to its role as the greatest polluter in the country and its role as a polluter in the world at large. Indeed, Warren accepts all actions of the US military as completely legitimate and seeks only to make them “green.”

Special Bodies of Armed Men

Elizabeth Warren—a self-admitted “capitalist to [her] bones,”—understands that underneath all of the rhetoric about protecting “our freedom,” the U.S. military exists to protect U.S. capital abroad, dissuade any potential rival national capitals and secure access to resources for the United States. Not only is this obvious in Warren’s own voting history of regularly supporting increasingly large military budgets over the years, but it’s evident in the unspoken assumptions inherent to her own policy proposal.

It is hard, for instance, to imagine how the people of Afghanistan have had their freedom protected by a decade-plus functionally colonial occupation of their country. Or how Iraqi civilians have had their freedom protected by a campaign of bombing, starvation sanctions and bombardment with depleted uranium in the decades spanning the start of the first Gulf War to today. And yet, horrifyingly, Warren’s policy looks at the ongoing occupations of both countries as merely questions of how to make existing logistical problems of occupation “greener.” The environmental costs of the wars (that is, not just the destruction of large areas but the rendering of them to be completely uninhabitable) is waved away. Instead, Warren’s policy focuses on questions of how to make the military’s fuel consumption greener without asking why the military’s fuel consumption is so great to begin with. For Warren, as much as any other representative of capital, the possibility of ending the occupation of both countries is not even entertained.

Most offensive of all the way she portrays the people of the global south, who are most affected by climate change, as a military threat. Warren chooses to depict the kind of climate migration that will occur as parts of the earth become uninhabitable in straightforwardly Trumpian terms:

In Southeast Asia, rising seas are forcing thousands of people to migrants from their homes, increasing the risk of the risk of ethnic and political strife.

Here her demarcation between deserving and undeserving victims of climate change is most clear. In choosing between the largest war machine known to human history and people fleeing destruction wrought by the very same American capital that the military serves to protect, she chooses to sympathize with the former. Warren is not just a capitalist to her own bones, but to the bones of those who will pay for American military action in the face of climate apocalypse with their lives.

The Green New Deal and Why it Matters

Even if one agreed with all of this, though, they might ask, ‘why should I interrogate Warren’s policy to such a degree?’ After all, she is not doing well in the polls and while primaries are fickle (especially so many months out), as it stands right now her chances of being the next Democratic Party candidate, let alone president, are slim. If Warren’s policy were one that were confined to her campaign alone, then there would be little reason to devote so much time to deconstructing it. But Warren herself is clear that her plan is completely consistent with the goals and methods of the Green New Deal, and in this regard she is correct.

Despite the claims from Trump that the Green New Deal would see significant military cuts, this is nowhere to be found in the policy itself, and the resolution’s architects and defenders have been explicit in saying they have no such plans to cut the military to a significant degree. Warren’s plan validates the critics who say the it fails to address the role of the U.S. military as a polluter. Warren’s policy is chauvinist because it accepts that U.S. militarism unquestioned.

Internationalism must be the watchword of any actual green policy worth the name, and the fact that Warren’s plan, despite the outcry it generated on Twitter, is perfectly compatible with the overarching framework and ideology of the Green New Deal means that those who hope and work for a better world must recognize and fight the trend of green chauvinism—the belief that Americans are the only possible victims of climate change.

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