These campaigns have done nothing to improve American national security. Far from it: As I document in my book Merchants of Despair, they may have contributed to the loss of the Vietnam War. In 1967, on the insistence of Komer, the Johnson administration decided to make U.S. famine aid to India conditional on acceptance of population control rather than support for the Vietnam War effort. More broadly, the crimes systematically committed under these USAID-funded programs have provided ample ammunition for anti-American propagandists of every description across the entire Third World. Yet they continue to this day, with $600 million budgeted for such purposes in FY 2012.
So now we have the global-warming hysterics insisting that U.S. national security and world peace depend upon restricting carbon use. Nothing could be more false. What the world needs most for its stability, and what the U.S. needs for its national security, is economic growth, which is driven first and foremost by expanded carbon use. Nothing could be more regressive than carbon taxes. Nothing could do more to help the world’s poor than to make fossil fuels cheap and plentiful. Nothing could do more harm to America’s national security than a carbon-restricted depressed economy that would make funding our military impossible. Nothing could do more to ensure the wherewithal for our national security than a cheap carbon-enabled economic boom.
But even beyond these clear material considerations, there is a deeper sense in which the PSA line could not be more wrong. This is that most wars, especially the worst wars, are caused not by poverty, but by destructive ideas. And perhaps the most destructive idea in history is that there is only so much to go around, and so others must be denied their share. It is this idea, enunciated for example by Hitler (“The laws of existence require uninterrupted killing, so that the better may live”), that caused two world wars in the 20th century, and that could cause another in the 21st, should the ideology of the carbon restrictionists be accepted.
Consider the following: If the myth that there is only so much carbon to go around is accepted, then from the point of view of non-Americans, for example the Chinese, it is unacceptable that the United States should continue to prosper — or even to exist. After all, as President Obama has frequently explained, we are only 4 percent of the world’s population, yet we use 25 percent of the fuel. Surely China should seek to put a stop to that. On the other hand, should America’s elites become true believers in the carbon-restrictionist dogma, then the rise of China’s economy can only be seen as a fatal threat to us. What horror, that the sons and daughters of Chinese peasants are now going to university, graduating as scientists and engineers, buying cars, and burning gas! Surely, we must put a stop to that.
Ideas have consequences. Myths can start wars. Germany never needed living space; it has a bigger population now than it did under the Third Reich, on much less land, yet it has a far higher living standard. But because the Germans believed they needed lebensraum, they launched a world war and supported a campaign of genocide. Far from harming the rest of the world — except through perverse campaigns like the population-control efforts — the United States has been its greatest benefactor. We are only 4 percent of the human race, yet for the past century we have been responsible for half of its inventions. If we were reduced to Third World living standards, these inventions would stop. Conversely, impoverished China has not contributed much in recent centuries. But if it successfully develops, its newly educated population will start making inventions that will greatly benefit us.
But the zero-sum ideology of the carbon restrictionists does not allow for a world of such progress and friendship. Instead, it demands a world of war of all against all.
That is why it is not carbon use, but environmentalism, that is a threat to peace.