Our Security is Threatened and We Don’t Have Time for War

By Peter Bergel

The government and the Pentagon are right. Our national security is definitely at risk. Afghanistan? Iraq? Al Qaeda? Small potatoes. Yemen? Iran? Even smaller. Nope, the big threats are not military. Nor can they be addressed by the military.

The big threats we face today are global warming, economic collapse, dwindling natural resources, population growth, pollution and the fascism that follows in their wake.

We can not afford to keep focusing our attention on the so-called War on Terror or the War on Drugs. In fact, we don’t have time or resources for any war at all. We need to think about human survival on this planet.

Global Warming

Even the Pentagon figured out that global warming was a problem a year ago. They finally realized that “climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions.” That’s just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. The disaster of hurricane Katrina ought to have awakened everyone to the havoc that can be wrought by warming-driven storms. That catastrophe caused far more damage than the 9/11 attacks, yet the former is not seen as a national security threat while the latter is. What’s up with that? What are we thinking?

Economic Plunder

And the economy? After it was indisputably plundered by the most venal criminals, bringing ruin to many Americans and enormous hardship to countless more, did we go on a global manhunt, track down the baddies and jail them? Uh, not exactly. We put them in charge of fixing the problem and bailed out their companies. Most were rewarded with huge bonuses. It was kind of like appointing Osama to lead FEMA. And the victims? Unfortunate collateral damage – nothing to be done about it.

If this is not a national security problem, I don’t know what is. If a gang of terrorists held up a group of U.S. tourists in a Muslim country, we’d send in the Marines. So why can’t Americans get protection here?

Natural Resources

Oil is not the only natural resource that’s starting to look like the “unobtainium” of the Avatar movie. Potable water is now at a premium in many parts of the world, forest land is threatened everywhere, metals are harder and harder to come by and energy is either scarce or poisonous – sometimes both. This is clearly another national security threat. What’s the response of the military and the government? Waste more of everything! According to The Progressive, “U.S. forces in Iraq during 2007 consumed 40,000 barrels of oil a day, all of which was transported into the war zone from other countries.”  And the Iraq War “added more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than 60 percent of the world’s nations,” an amount equivalent to putting 25 million more cars on the road. With protectors like these…

Population Growth

Our species is outgrowing this planet. This is not only a national security threat, it’s a global security threat. The obvious response is to curtail population growth using both short term and medium term strategies. The best short term strategy is contraception, while the best medium term strategy is educating women. Some government policies interfere with both. The right wingnuts who carry their religious fervor on behalf of the “right to life” to the point of threatening the life of every living thing on earth, both present and future, should be seen as traitors. They are undermining global security and can no longer be allowed to continue to do so.


When the Club of Rome issued its “Limits to Growth” report in 1970, it concluded that, of the many threats it studied, pollution was the one most likely to “get” us first. This prediction is coming true day by day. The fish in our oceans are polluted with heavy metals, the water is so acidic that fish and other ocean life are dying, our soil is polluted by poisonous pesticides and herbicides, our wars spread nameless poisons, including radioactive ones, many of our industries do the same – polluting at every step from mining to transportation to processing to manufacturing – while the mass media pollute our minds. Each of these threatens the security of our country, our freedom and our health, but since the military has not been put to solve these problems – indeed, makes them worse – little is done.


When people are faced with crisis, they respond either by pulling together as a community and confronting the common threat, or they attempt to annihilate the threat by trying to kill it. Community action is famous for its successes. The war mentality is notorious for its failures. Nevertheless, wars are always profitable for a few and those few work hard to see to it that wars continue. So it is now.

One of the prices we pay for the war mentality is the conviction that everyone and everything is out to get us. Fear is encouraged and anyone suggesting alternatives to it is silenced. This attitude breeds the repressive syndrome we call “fascism.” The dictionary definition is a “regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader.”

Since our government and its military has decided that the threats we all need to fear are terrorists and “rogue” nations, it is unpopular to point out that these threats are minimal compared to the threats enumerated here. It is even less popular to call for a massive shift in emphasis so as to confront the most serious threats and address them in ways that might actually make us more secure. Better to wait until these threats lead to resource wars – then the military will know whom to fight.

Time for Some Vision

It is time, and more, for those of us not yet in thrall to fascist thinking to articulate a vision of the world we really want to live in. Only then can we realistically craft a strategy to move toward that world from where we currently are. Individual struggles against this or that problem will be easily ignored or repressed using the tools of fascism. Only when all these struggles for justice, sustainability, peace, environmental balance and human rights are linked by a common vision will we have a chance of achieving any of them. Φ

Peter Bergel is Executive Director of Oregon PeaceWorks and Editor of The PeaceWorker.

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