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Historic Analogies for Climate Change are Beguiling

By Keith Kloor
Dec 16, 2011 12:51 AMNov 20, 2019 5:17 AM


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It is just about as obvious that AGW [anthropogenic global warming] is not a serious problem as it was that the Nazis weren't in 1936. Plenty of supposedly reasonable people had plenty of reasonable reasons to do nothing about it then, but today we just think they were stupid. Wasn't it just obvious, weren't the facts staring them in the face? But there was not really a shortage of people who saw WWII coming.

A commenter on the previous thread makes that argument here. But we also don't need to go that far into the past for 2020 hindsight. We could use today's occasion in Iraq to argue that a war which had nothing to do with 9/11 and sold with selective, hyped information to a fearful nation, is, on the flipside, a good a argument for skepticism. Let's review:

The U.S. war in Iraq "” a conflict that killed more than 4,000 American troops, cost $800 billion and divided the nation "” officially ended with a ceremony held under tight security. "To be sure, the cost was high "” in blood and treasure for the United States and also for the Iraqi people," Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said. "But those lives have not been lost in vain."

So, knowing what we know today, was it worth it? This rationalization from Fox News is a gem:

There may not have been weapons of mass destruction but for sure the U.S. military came of age in Iraq. It learned how to fight a counterinsurgency. It learned what it felt like to be perceived as an occupier. But most importantly nearly 1 million U.S. service members who passed through it and the Afghan theater became experts on the Middle East in all of its roiling complexity, making it impossible for Americans ever again to become truly isolationist. Those U.S. forces learned how to take intelligence and hunt terrorists, skills that General Stanley McChrystal and the CIA perfected in Iraq, which undoubtedly were the basis for the skills and planning that allowed the U.S. military to execute with near perfect precision the killing of Usama Bin Laden and target and kill 99 percent of Al Qaeda's top leaders worldwide. Those skills were honed and perfected in Iraq.

Never mind that the forces diverted to Iraq could have been used to nail Bin Laden much sooner while also helping to avoid the quagmire we find ourselves in today in Afghanistan. Otherwise, yeah, we learned why it's not such a good idea to be an occupier in the Muslim world. But getting back to the topic at hand, do these two pieces of history, Germany in 1936 and Iraq in 2003, hold lessons for us today, in how we are responding to climate change?

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