In a press briefing on November 10, Pentagon spokesman retired Adm. John Kirby gave further evidence of the Biden administration’s incoherent national strategy. He refused to distinguish between China and “climate change” as threats to U.S. national security.
In response to a question of “which is a bigger threat, the climate or China?” Kirby said, “You’ve heard the secretary talk about the climate as a — a real and existential national security threat . . . And we considered China as the number one pacing challenge for the department. Both are equally important. Both are — are challenges that the secretary wants the senior leadership at the Pentagon to be focused on, as well as many others, too.”
Kirby’s answer was a bit of a muddle. He first described China as “the number one pacing threat.” But he then immediately added, “Both are equally important.”
The questioning reporter then sought clarification: “So if you were to rank the two, climate or China, which would be first?”
Kirby could only say, “I think I answered your question.”
Others are more clear-headed. Despite Kirby’s refusal to clarify his comments, President Biden’s director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, has not hesitated in naming China as our “most significant threat [and] challenge” throughout the foreseeable future and said that “[o]ut-competing China will be key to our national security.”
The outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff John Hyten was brutally direct in recent comments reported by CNN. “Calling China a pacing threat is a useful term because the pace at which China is moving is stunning,” Hyten told reporters at a Defense Writers Group roundtable last month. “The pace they’re moving and the trajectory they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it. It will happen. So I think we have to do something.”
Burns’s and Hyten’s warnings are backed up by China’s aggressive military build-up, which leaves no room for doubt that its strategy is one of expansion and aggression. In 2020 the Department of Defense reported to Congress that what “is certain is that the CCP has a strategic end state that it is working towards, which if achieved and its accompanying military modernization left unaddressed, will have serious implications for U.S. national interests and the security of the international rules-based order.”
As part of that modernization, China’s navy has surpassed the U.S. Navy as the world’s largest. Its recent leap ahead of us in the development of a hypersonic nuclear-capable missile sent shockwaves through the military and intelligence communities.
Given the strategic threat posed by China, Kirby’s refusal to distinguish between the threats posed by it and “climate change” raises the question, “Why does Admiral Kirby still have a job?” The answer is because Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Commander-in-Chief Joe Biden approve of what he said.
A Monumental Change in Military Strategy
The American public needs to be aware that the Biden administration’s position, as reflected in Kirby’s refusal to distinguish between our principal military adversary and “climate change,” represents a monumental change in U.S. military strategy. It is yet more evidence that the military is faithfully following the so-called “progressive” agenda instead of sharpening its focus on winning our wars. It is of a piece with Gen. Mark Milley’s focus on “white rage” and his classification of “thousands” of demonstrators at the Capitol on January 6 as domestic enemies who were trying to “overturn the Constitution of the United States of America.”
Under Austin, the Department of Defense has embraced the climate change religion. In October, DOD proclaimed the crisis and stated it would take immediate action to elevate the climate as a national security priority and, among other things, reduce our carbon footprint.
In DOD’s “Climate Adaptation Plan,” Austin attempts to justify the change by claiming that events such as hurricanes and flooding are part of “climate-related extreme weather [that] affects military readiness and drains our resources.” He bows to a Biden executive order that requires the DOD “to prioritize climate change in all our activities and incorporate its security implications into analysis as well as key strategy, planning, and programming documents.”
Assessing the Weather
Now, it is important to note here that assessing the enemy, terrain, and weather has been part of military commanders’ battle planning for centuries. War planning for Norway differs from that for Iraq.
Gen. Dwight Eisenhower’s access to superior weather forecasts was a major part of his ability to achieve tactical battlefield surprise on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Before that, the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon at Waterloo by taking advantage of heavy rains that hampered transportation, limited the use of artillery, and forced Napoleon’s Imperial Guard to attack uphill through the mud.
The radical difference in the Biden administration’s approach is its refusal to distinguish between extrinsic factors that should be considered in operational planning, such as terrain, weather, and climate, and rational, strategic actors, such as China, who challenge our national security.
The cause, extent, and effects of “climate change” are the subject of considerable scientific debate. Some believe that man-made “climate change” threatens the very survival of civilization, while others disagree, relying, among other things, on the history of unfulfilled doomsday predictions of a new ice age by 2000, the disappearance of polar ice caps, and cities inundated by rising seas.
General MacArthur’s Charge
On the proper role of the military, Biden and Austin would do well to heed the eloquent charge given to the West Point cadets by Gen. Douglas MacArthur in 1962:
We deal now, not with things of this world alone, but with the illimitable distances and as yet unfathomed mysteries of the universe. . . We are reaching out for a new and boundless frontier. We speak in strange terms: of harnessing the cosmic energy; of making winds and tides work for us . . . of controlling the weather for a more equitable distribution of heat and cold, of rain and shine . . .
And through all this welter of change and development your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable. It is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes, all other public projects, all other public needs, great or small, will find others for their accomplishment; but you are the ones who are trained to fight. Yours is the profession of arms, the will to win, the sure knowledge that in war there is no substitute for victory, that if you lose, the Nation will be destroyed, that the very obsession of your public service must be Duty, Honor, Country.
To the military: Listen to MacArthur. Your mission is to win our wars. All else is a corollary. The survival of the nation depends upon it.