There was a real chill as President Barack Obama told the Class of 2014s United States Military Academy at West Point that fighting “climate change” will “help shape your time in uniform.
“Keep in mind, not all international norms relate directly to armed conflict,” Obama said. “We have a serious problem with cyber-attacks, which is why we’re working to shape and enforce rules of the road to secure our networks and our citizens.
“In the Asia Pacific, we’re supporting Southeast Asian nations as they negotiate a code of conduct with China on maritime disputes in the South China Sea,” he added. “And we’re working to resolve these disputes through international law.”
“That spirit of cooperation,” Obama continued, “needs to energize the global effort to combat climate change–a creeping national security crisis that will help shape your time in uniform, as we are called on to respond to refugee flows and natural disasters and conflicts over water and food, which is why next year I intend to make sure America is out front in putting together a global framework to preserve our planet.”
“You see, American influence is always stronger when we lead by example,” Obama included. “We can’t exempt ourselves from the rules that apply to everybody else. We can’t call on others to make commitments to combat climate change if a whole lot of our political leaders deny that it’s taking place.”
While Obama views climate change as a national security crisis, many Army officers will not have learned about it during their time at West Point. For example, cadets who take Environmental Engineering courses will study “air pollution concerns such as global climate change, acid rain and smog.”
In fact, the phrase “climate change” is mentioned only six times in the U.S. Military Academy’s course catalog for the class of 2016 and one meteorology course includes “a brief look at climate and climate change.”
Another course, ‘Environmental Security,’ offers a “case study approach” to environmental issues affecting national security, including “global climate change.” Finally an ‘International Organizations and Institutions, course includes the option of studying “the Kyoto Protocol/other Climate Change institutions.”
More frightening than Obama’s lack of knowledge about the USMA’s actual syllabus is how he views the nation’s standing in the world.
“It is absolutely true that in the 21st century, American isolationism is not an option,” Obama said. “Since World War II, some of our most costly mistakes came not from our restraint, but from our willingness to rush into military adventures — without thinking through the consequences; without building international support and legitimacy for our action, or leveling with the American people about the sacrifice required.”
“Here’s my bottom line: America must always lead on the world stage,” Obama claimed. “If we don’t, no one else will. The military that you have joined is, and always will be, the backbone of that leadership. But U.S. military action cannot be the only – or even primary – component of our leadership in every instance. Just because we have the best hammer does not mean that every problem is a nail.”
He spoke of terrorism saying it remains the largest threat facing the U.S. and how he has asked Congress for $5 billion to fund new counterterrorism partnerships.
“These resources will give us flexibility to fulfill different missions, including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against Al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali,” he said.
Obama added that he did not want to commit the American military to Syria, but believes other actions can be taken to support the rebels.
“With the additional resources I’m announcing today, we will step up our efforts to support Syria’s neighbors — Jordan and Lebanon; Turkey and Iraq — as they host refugees, and confront terrorists working across Syrian borders,” Obama said. “I will work with Congress to ramp up support for those in the Syrian opposition who offer the best alternative to terrorists.”
In calling for multilateral action, he attacked the opposition to the Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST.)
“It’s a lot harder to call on China to resolve its maritime disputes under the Law of the Sea Convention when the United States Senate has refused to ratify it,” he complained, ‘despite the repeated insistence of our top military leaders that the treaty advances our national security. That’s not leadership; that’s retreat.”
LOST is an agreement drawn up by the United Nations and ratified by 162 countries and the European Union that governs the oceans. The treaty has been described as a “constitution of the oceans” and was negotiated in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The U.S. signed the treaty in 1994 but hasn’t ratified it. In 2010, Obama adopted the recommendations of the Ocean Policy Task Force, but fortunately two-years later the U.S. Senate voted it down.
Obama also returned to his broken promise to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center and talked about the NSA data gathering.
“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being,” Obama claimed. “But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it’s our willingness to affirm them through our actions,”
“That’s why I will continue to push to close Gitmo — because American values and legal traditions don’t permit the indefinite detention of people beyond our borders,” he continued. “That’s why we are putting in place new restrictions on how America collects and uses intelligence – because we will have fewer partners and be less effective if a perception takes hold that we are conducting surveillance against ordinary citizens. America does not simply stand for stability, or the absence of conflict, no matter what the price; we stand for the more lasting peace that can only come through opportunity and freedom for people everywhere.”
Obama’s approval rating among those serving in the military is only 32 percent and the ongoing VA scandal, like his commencement speech at West Point, won’t help that figure improve.