First they sold us generations worth of wars for oil. Next, after these wars and the unsustainable energy system they’ve prolonged creates an ecological breakdown, they’re going to sell us wars for water. And since a lot more of us will be in the crosshairs of these wars instead of in the comfortable enclaves of imperial excess, this sell is going to involve a genocidal logic.
Such is the conclusion that one comes to when seeing a recent clip of Vice President Kamala Harris, wherein she said: “I’ve been in a lot of meetings about foreign policy. You know, for years and generations, wars have been fought over oil. In a short matter of time, they will be fought over water. So when we think about building up our economy, around our infrastructure, around something like water policy, it’s literally about jobs, it’s about the fundamental source of life that Tammy Duckworth was talking about, will sustain life, and it’s about strengthening up our nation.”
While Harris clearly had a Freudian slip in that she rather flippantly revealed an unacknowledged truth about foreign policy — which is the fact that oil is the reason why America remains at war — it seems that from her perspective as a driver of imperialist machinations, this was a benign statement given our current situation. It appears to now be common sense among the imperialist technocrats that for capital to be preserved in the face of the climate crisis, wars are going to need to be waged for increasingly scarce resources like water, and that these wars will need to be tied into the near-future economic developments within the imperial center.
Is this any surprise when just a few months ago, Wall Street began betting on water as a commodity in the same vein as gold? The privatization of water, land, food, electricity, and medicine are integral to the neoliberal “shock doctrine” of the age of climatic collapse. And as Harris just clarified, wars are the instrument through which these manifestations of late-stage capitalist pillage will be galvanized.
Harris tries to portray this plan as something that will bring the U.S. population into an optimistic, economically prosperous future. But like the promise that the Big Tech-driven “fourth industrial revolution” will usher in a bright and shiny era after the pandemic, these promises are a ruse. What’s going to happen is a furtherance of society’s takeover by corporations, intent on looting the country in times of crisis and enforcing a militarized campaign towards pacifying a suffering populous. Private military companies are going to be part of this process, as hinted at by the Biden administration’s integration of military industrial complex entities like the Center for a New American Security. Jacobin’s Branko Marcetic observes about this corporate operation to feed off of war:
A whole host of think tanks, including those in the foreign policy sphere like the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Atlantic Council, regularly overlap their advocacy work with the interests of their well-heeled benefactors. But few have as much influence on the workings of the US government, with at least thirteen of the center’s alumni ending up in the Biden administration to date. As the foreign policy equivalent of the Center for American Progress, this is, after all, why CNAS exists: to serve as the future Democratic administration’s foreign policy team in waiting. Washington, it seems, is finally back in the guiding hands of the experts who were always meant to be running the show.
This trend within U.S. capital towards leaning onto mercenary companies and weapons manufacturers correlates with capital’s broader consolidation into industries which, in some way or another, feed off of the world’s growing death and destruction. In the last year, the loss of tens of millions of jobs has resulted in a concentration of the job market into the high-tech sector, whose executives have been massively profiting off of the pandemic. Big Tech has also been profiting off of the detention of immigrants through assisting ICE, as well as off of the endless wars by allying with the Pentagon. The recent record uptick in migrant detentions is quietly adding onto this campaign to exploit humanitarian crises. And despite Biden’s ambiguously trustworthy promise to pull out of Afghanistan, Harris just promised that additional windfalls for the war profiteers are coming in the form of water wars.
Such is the unholy alliance of mercenaries, arms dealers, for-profit prison builders, Big Pharma price gougers, and surveillance capitalism benefactors who are getting ever richer off of the death and suffering of the masses. This is the kleptocratic order that Harris seeks to protect by trying to sell the idea of water wars to the public; the implication from Harris that these wars will be integral to U.S. infrastructure and jobs is a veiled attempt to justify the murderous system which will manufacture these wars.
And the very idea that these wars will be unavoidable is also part of this rationalization. Our society’s future participation in water wars, like our current participation in oil wars, could be avoided if we were living under socialism. But because our late-stage capitalist kleptocracy requires such wars in order to survive, imperialist technocrats like Harris assume without question that the wars will happen. They’ll simply be unavoidable for as long as the U.S. empire exists.
For victims of imperialism like the refugees crossing the border, the near future will be one of ever-expanding unsafe zones, made necessary to flee by increasing poverty, violence, and civilizational collapse from the destruction that the empire wreaks upon their communities amid growing climate destabilization. And the same is going to apply for ever more of us in the core of the empire. Unless you’re part of the elite circle of capitalists that’s profiting from the destruction, being an “American” very likely isn’t going to protect you from the coming storm.
The Pentagon estimates that the majority of the U.S. electrical grid is unprepared to withstand the natural disasters global warming will unleash upon the country in the coming decades, and an environmental study shows that 1 in 12 Americans in the country’s southern half are going to have to migrate to safer grounds within the next 45 years. Look at what Covid-19 has done to this country. Imagine what widespread climate migration and infrastructural breakdown will do when combined with the food shortages, unprecedented droughts, fires, and far worse pandemics which our environmental catastrophe is going to produce.
What we’re facing is a future where a select few can still access safeties of modernity, with the vast majority being forced into abhorrent conditions that they aren’t prepared for. In the places most impacted by this destabilization, the U.S. military is going to swoop in with an authoritarian hand, justified by high-sounding rationales like the ones Harris mentioned. The Army’s plans to invade and occupy U.S. cities in this way are already explicitly articulated, meaning we may find ourselves subjected to the same “humanitarian intervention” treatment that the empire has applied to peoples like the Yugoslavians, the Libyans, and the Syrians.
This is the logical conclusion of the military’s private doctrine for climate apocalypse that Harris gave us a glimpse into. A scenario where ever more of the world gets carved up by occupations, migrant concentration camps, war zones, and parasitism from corporations whose socioeconomic system is eating itself.
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