Darn it. Last week was National Security Week - Karl Rove said so - and I was so busy pointing out the numerous idiocies of George W. Bush's tax cut that I missed the whole thing. However, it is painfully clear the new administration folks wouldn't know a threat to national security from the "Waltz of the Flowers."
They propose yet another blue-ribbon commission to study what to do about the military. Their only other idea is to spend at least $50 billion on the perfectly useless National Missile Defense system to protect us from the North Koreans, who have a warhead but no heat shield for it, rendering it slightly moot as a weapon.
Meanwhile, the hopelessly retro Bush defense team - I've never seen so many retreads in my life, from Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Daddy - are Cold Warriors all. Bruce Cumings of the University of Chicago said of them in The Nation, "There hasn't been so much pseudogravitas in one room since the last time Henry Kissinger dined alone."
Look, this is really simple. The single greatest threat to the national security of the United States is the rapidly deteriorating global environment.
National Missile Defense does not do a thing to protect us from global warming. Nor does NMD do dog to protect us from drug-resistant strains of TB that are spreading concomitantly with AIDS, or from the consequences of massive poverty in the Third World and what are called "failed states" - the new politically correct way to say "regimes corrupt to the point of disaster."
On the TB front, John LeCarre's new novel, "The Constant Gardener," is both a great read and an excellent primer on the role of multinational pharmaceutical companies in the Third World - a splendid tale of corporate evil-doing, but with the exquisite sadness of the heart-broken idealist that distinguishes LeCarre's work.
On the global warming front, the fresh evidence is almost too depressing to contemplate in conjunction with the Bushies' blindness. All the news is bad.
The journal Science reports that an analysis of ice cores drilled in the Himalayan mountains shows that the past decade has been the warmest for 1,000 years. The fate of Pacific coral reefs suggests an even longer period. The New York Times reports that the snows of Kilimanjaro, which have floated for thousands of years like a cool beacon over Tanzania, are retreating so fast that they will be gone in 15 years. The same is true of icecaps from Peru to Tibet.
The most chilling report is by the IPCC - the United Nations' International Panel on Climate Change. The panel, which consists of 400 of the world's leading climatologists, predicts global warming may raise the average temperature of Earth as much as 10 degrees over the average temperature of 1990. That is a dramatic escalation from 1995, when they predicted a maximum rise of 6 degrees. We're in big trouble.
If we were being invaded by aliens from space, we would react more intelligently than this. At least we'd recognize it as a national-security threat.
I know that many of you who are well-informed about global warming sometimes despair of breaking through the denial, partially paid for by the energy companies - not to mention the depressing sight of Texas oilmen running the country's energy policy.
Despair is not only a grave sin but, I think, unwarranted. If you can remember when President Nixon went to China, this country essentially turned on a dime. From decades of denouncing Beijing as the heart of absolute darkness, we suddenly noticed that it also happened to be the largest market in the world. That took about 10 minutes.
As for the terrible epidemic, I would like to salute Time magazine for its recent cover story: "This is about AIDS in Africa. Look at the pictures. Read the words. And then try not to care."
If compassion is beyond you, try this: There's not a chance that victims of "failed states" and climate change are going to stay where they are. The most massive migrations in history will follow if nothing is done. In your children's lifetimes.
Perhaps it is only the fleeting effect of public relations, but I gather that Secretary of State Colin Powell is not entirely blind to these consequences. If so, may he prosper in the much-predicted political warfare within the Bush defense team.
Even in the Texas Legislature, they know it is from time to time necessary to rethink their "pry-roarities."
Fort Worth Star-Telegram