Just three months ago, 30 current and former defence personnel formed an Australian Security Leaders Climate Group. At the time, the former Chief of Defence, Admiral Chris Barrie, claimed that climate change was one of the two ‘existential’ threats that keep him awake at night. The other was nuclear war.
There was no mention of Afghanistan, or the South China Sea or China’s increasingly bellicose statements over Taiwan. No, these very serious people, claimed seriously, that climate change was the national security risk we needed to focus on right now.
So I took these serious people, seriously. And I tweeted on Monday morning - after Kabul had fallen to the Taliban - “Does anyone know whether the Taliban will sign up to net zero?”
My comment was meant to shock, and I am not surprised that some found it shocking. I want to shock people awake from the naive slumber we have lapsed into where we distract ourselves with woke fantasies over the hard realities we imminently face.
Some claimed that I insensitively linked the Taliban’s stunning resurgence to climate change. But I wasn’t the one that had linked national security to the politics of climate change. Admiral Barrie had months earlier. And, if Admiral Barrie, is to be believed then the most pertinent question, after the fall of
Kabul, is what does this mean for action on climate change?
Just asking that question highlights the joke that western military strategy has become. Our defence officials have spent more time worrying about diversity and inclusion than defence and industrialisation. Over the past year, Australian Defence Force officials have booked an embarrassing twerking dance troupe to perform at an official function, encouraged people to wear “rainbow clothing” at LGBTI morning teas but banned troops wearing “death” insignia like The Phantom, skull and crossbones or the Grim Reaper.
That has left our country weak and vulnerable to be shocked by the complete debacle that has unfolded in Afghanistan. As I write this, the Australian Defence Force cannot even get a plane to Afghanistan to remove the Australians and our friends that remain there.
We cannot let these errors go unremarked. We have failed spectacularly and that has led to a humanitarian catastrophe in central Asia that will reverberate for decades. It is especially saddening to those Australian families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice for what started as a noble cause to defeat the terrorists that had launched the 9/11 attacks.
But we do their sacrifice a great disservice if we do not forensically dissect why we have left Afghanistan weaker. And, we will only become weaker again if we continue to focus on the woke over the threats of war.
Unlike, Admiral Barrie, I think it is absurd to view climate change as our greatest national security threat. On the same day I sent my controversial tweet, the Global Times - a Chinese Communist Party tabloid newspaper - wrote that “From what happened in Afghanistan, [Taiwan] should perceive that once a war
breaks out in the Straits, the island’s defense will collapse in hours and the US military won’t come to help.”
Note the Chinese paper said “once” not “if” a war breaks out. This is the greatest threat to our security. The lesson from Kabul is we need to take care of our defences not try to change the temperature of the globe. That must start with a recommitment to make things in Australia again. We produced fewer manufactured goods in 2020 than we did in 2010, and our national security priority should be to avoid net zero manufacturing rather than net zero emissions.
We cannot rely on other countries to do that for us. A few months ago the G7 - a group of the richest liberal democratic countries - released a communique that mentioned ‘climate’ 30 times, ‘gender’ 25 times and ‘Afghanistan’ just twice, right at the end.
Their priorities showed how out of touch they were to the real facts on the ground. We cannot control whether other countries get their head out of the clouds but we need to get back to the real challenges we face, and do so soon.