The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy, released on December 18th, is premised on the belief that America’s economic security is national security. In reordering the skewed priorities of the Obama administration, “climate change” is no longer listed as a national security threat. Instead, the new National Security Strategy document emphasizes the importance of “energy dominance—America’s central position in the global energy system as a leading producer, consumer, and innovator.” The document goes on to state that our nation’s “abundant energy resources—coal, natural gas, petroleum, renewables, and nuclear—stimulates the economy and builds a foundation for future growth.” Climate policies cannot be so extreme that they risk undermining America’s strengths in energy, thus endangering America’s current and future economic security.
“The United States will continue to advance an approach that balances energy security, economic development, and environmental protection,” according to the National Security Strategy document. An anti-fossil fuel agenda not only is injurious to U.S. economic security. It fails to recognize the important role that fossil fuels must play for the foreseeable future, along with alternative forms of energy, in helping the developing world “power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.”
What a refreshing change from the last administration’s obsession with climate change, which former President Barack Obama had made the centerpiece of his national security agenda. “Today, there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change,” Obama declared during one of his weekly video addresses in 2015. At the climate change conference in Paris, which led to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change from which the United States is now withdrawing thanks to President Trump, Obama claimed that climate change is “akin to the problem of terrorism.” In September 2016, Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security, establishing a policy that the impacts of climate change must be considered in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans.
In his single-minded preoccupation with climate change, Obama kicked the can down the road when it came to dealing with more pressing national security issues, including the looming existential crisis posed by North Korea’s rapid development of nuclear arms and intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking the U.S. mainland. The Obama administration also facilitated the path for Iran to become a full-fledged nuclear power within a decade or so, by agreeing to the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Former Secretary of State John Kerry made the delusional claim that the Iran deal and the Paris climate change agreement he negotiated were vital to global security, during a speech he delivered on June 5, 2017 at Ploughshares Fund’s annual Chain Reaction event. In both cases, all that his deals managed to do was to undermine U.S. national security.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change, which Obama was in such a hurry to push over the finish line that he bypassed the U.S. Constitution’s Senate treaty ratification process, was a gift to China, America’s chief economic rival, as well as to other economic competitors. Obama agreed to implement onerous energy-related regulations likely to slow down U.S. economic growth without insisting on commensurate commitments from China or any other country.
In the U.S. submission of national objectives under the terms of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Obama committed the United States to making significant _cuts_ in greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, through stifling regulations with disastrous consequence for the U.S. coal industry and other energy sectors. Meanwhile, the U.S.’s principal economic rival and the world’s largest greenhouse gas emitter, China, could continue to _increase_ its greenhouse gas emissions until 2030. Coal-fired electricity, Obama’s principal target for evisceration, will be the largest source of China’s increased emissions through 2030. China is not only fueling coal-fired electricity production for itself. It is also investing in building coal-fired power plants in other countries, such as Pakistan. In short, through the artifice of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, China managed to maneuver the Obama administration into agreeing to handicap the U.S. economy while allowing China to continue spewing more and more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere as it further stimulates its economic growth.
President Trump’s National Security Strategy document represents a major course correction. It is based on a sober evaluation of the world as it really is, not how some utopians would like it to be. While removing climate change from the list of national security threats, the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy document discusses real strategic challenges.
“China and Russia,” the document states, “are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence. These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades — policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false.”
The new National Security Strategy also focuses on means to protect America’s borders. “Reestablishing lawful control of our borders is a first step toward protecting the American homeland and strengthening American sovereignty,” the document states. “Strengthening control over our borders and immigration system is central to national security, economic prosperity, and the rule of law.” The Obama administration permitted porous borders and favored a policy of amnesty towards illegal immigrants.
The new National Security Strategy document explicitly calls out “jihadists” and their “radical Islamist ideology that encourages violence” as a national security threat, something which the Obama administration had refused to do.
To combat any military threats from those who would do us harm, the National Security Strategy document calls for a buildup of America’s military, including plans to counter modern threats such as electromagnetic pulse attacks and cyberattacks. The document does not introduce any policy of preemptive strikes. However, it discusses the need to enhance the nation’s military defenses. The Obama administration had downplayed key aspects of missile defense.
In addition, the document includes plans to promote U.S. economic prosperity, focusing on the importance of fairer trade deals and shared financial responsibility by other nations for mutual defense.
In his cover letter to his administration’s National Security Strategy document, President Trump said that it “lays out a strategic vision for protecting the American people and preserving our way of life, promoting our prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence in the world.” He added what we have been waiting eight years to hear from the president of the United States: “Most of all, we will serve the American people and uphold their right to a government that prioritizes their security, their prosperity, and their interests. This National Security Strategy puts America First.”