The old saw we often heard from our parents about “Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today,” has never been more applicable. Since September 11 Americans have procrastinated about serious national security issues; now they have reached crisis level. High on the list – but by no means exhausting it – are energy, military strength levels, threat identification, and proliferation issues. As are most things in life, these are intertwined, so that delaying decisive action in one adversely affects the others.
It has taken a sharp spike in gasoline prices to convince most Americans that a business as usual approach to petroleum products has not worked. Many now perceive the dangers of reliance on offshore oil producers – several of which have interests inimical to the U.S. One would think that this key lesson had been learned in the 1970s oil crisis, but sometimes it takes more than one hit on the head with a 2×4 to get the point home.
For decades – perhaps dating from popular acceptance of the flawed science in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring – Americans have permitted energy policy to be driven by agenda-driven environmental interest groups. While a series of hysteric predictions of disaster have proven wrong over the past decades (e.g., utter depletion of the Earth’s resources by 1980, mass starvation due to overpopulation by 1987, and a return of the ice age at any moment in the 1970s, to name but a few) the proponents of such bizarre theories are rarely held accountable.
To the contrary, their influence has grown with each new dire prediction. Books predicting impending disaster sell well, but with an erroneous track record ought to be reclassified to the fiction category. Hysterical forecasts have been lucratively promoted by gullible media and compliant Hollywood actors and film makers. As a consequence, rational decision making on key components of energy independence such as increased oil exploration and extraction from known reservoirs off-shore and in Colorado or ANWR have been stymied.
The repeated arguments that such resources would have limited value or would not be available for decades have been refuted. In simple point of fact, had oil extraction begun in ANWR, to cite a single example, when the original Congressional release was killed by President Clinton, that oil would be flowing today. While not in itself a long-term solution it would certainly contribute to the overall energy independence of America and would buy time for longer-horizon R&D to provide improved alternatives.
Furthermore, despite a litany of warnings about the ultimate depletion of petroleum sources we continue to learn of new discoveries like the recently disclosed enormous pools in the deep Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil. More exist and could be successfully tapped.
Reliance on free market initiatives – rather than self-perpetuating government projects – would be sufficient to encourage auto manufacturers and alternative energy developers to become decisively engaged in solving this issue. Already we see the rapid emergence of alternatives in many fields. This trend will accelerate.
But at present America has lost precious time. While the country has 104 active nuclear plants producing electricity the need is far greater and the technology increasingly safe. Countries like France and Japan – ironically the only country to suffer actual nuclear attack – rely almost exclusively upon nuclear produced electricity for their needs. Yet Americans, still befuddled by the old anti-nuclear film The China Syndrome, approach the subject as if every nuclear plant is a potential Chernobyl.
In Frank Gaffney’s excellent book, War Footing, an entire section is devoted to means to make America energy-independent. Newt Gingrich has a large part of his organization devoted to similar efforts. We have watched a failed policy of reliance on outside energy sources gut our economy and shake our force projection capabilities. Americans need to get educated quickly on these issues so that we can direct our elected leadership – unduly influenced by far too long by extreme environmental special interest groups – to make the necessary changes to policy.
With an economy weakened by the price of imported oil, our military capabilities have diminished. At the moment we are engaged in global war. Two fronts on that war – Iraq and Afghanistan – draw most attention, but the conflict is indeed global, with definite domestic implications. That our military, boots-on-the-ground capability has been stretched thin is no longer debatable.
America desperately needs military reform that produces more of what this type of warfare demands: light infantry, special operations units, and units that can operate in the civil-military plane such as military police and engineers. Instead, we continue to pour billions into showy but unnecessary, high-ticket, high-tech weapons systems that are useful for Cold War applications but lack utility to defeat today’s enemies.
Furthermore, we as a nation lack realistic threat identification. We are still shy about naming our foe. Historically we began to see a reluctance to name the real enemy emerge in Korea. While fighting Chinese forces we hesitated to call the Peoples Republic our enemy. In Vietnam the legend persists to present day that we fought “ragged guerrilla” forces when in fact the unnamed enemy of North Vietnam send tanks, infantry divisions, and sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons to fight in the South.
Today we continue to dither, hamstrung by political correctness, moral equivalency, and cultural relativism. Unless we ultimately face the reality that we are engaged in a confrontation with elements of radical Islam, we will be unable to prevail. Instead, we have so convoluted the debate that we are at the point that we castigate anyone who actually points this out and tie our courts in knots fighting for civil rights for enemy combatants.
In addition, we treat enemies, such as Saudi Arabia, as allies, and ignore or excuse aberrant dictators like Hugo Chavez, Bashar Assad, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Kim Jong Il. We issue platitudes about the sanctity of “peace processes” and bless rigged elections and reassure ourselves that notorious terrorist organizations are in fact changing their spots.
Meanwhile, we ignore the ominous gathering storm of America’s enemies banding together against us. We overlook the deadly connections that link North Korean scientists and engineers to missile proliferation in rogue states like Syria, Iran, and Venezuela. Major research programs in these countries float under the collective radar while we watch fatalistically as incremental improvements continue unchecked in their biological, nuclear, and chemical warfare capabilities.
Perhaps it will take something as mundane yet impactful as the price of a gallon of gasoline to be the catalyst that will provoke America’s wake-up call. Certainly energy reform – and concomitant energy independence – will be a good first start to correcting the imbalance. Nevertheless, ignoring the ever-ticking clock allows our enemies time to aggregate and build strength.
At some point very soon an awakening must occur. We must recognize collective threats and identify responses necessary to deal with them. Otherwise we will – as we have been warned from youth – pay the high price of endless procrastination.
Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu has been an Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel, as well as a writer, popular speaker, business executive and farmer. His most recent book is Separated at Birth, about North and South Korea.