Robert Naiman, Chelsea Mozen, Sarah Burns and Megan Iorio / Just Foreign Policy – 2013-02-20 00:05:56
Are Dumb Foreign Policies Holding Us Back On Addressing Climate Change?
(February 19, 2013) — During his second inaugural address, President Obama promised to move the US forward on addressing climate change. So you’d think that rejecting the TransCanada Corporation’s proposal to build the Keystone XL pipeline, which would have a significant carbon impact if implemented, would be a no-brainer, right?
Not according to a recent New York Times report. After tens of thousands of activists descended on Washington this past Sunday to press the president to fulfill his promise on climate and reject the Keystone XL application,  the Times report claimed that the President faced a difficult decision: if Obama rejects the pipeline project as those concerned about climate change demand, he would provoke the Canadian conservative government to retaliate.  How? By not supporting bad US foreign policies!
Policies that are in the best interest of the American public ought not to be traded for policies that most Americans have no stake in.
So why does the New York Times think Obama should be afraid of the Conservative Canadian government? One claim was that a rejection of the Keystone XL project would end up causing a deep and perhaps lasting rift with Canadaâ€¦ a close ally on Iran and Afghanistanâ€¦. Its leaders have made it clear that an American rejection â€¦ could bring retaliation.”
But Canada has already withdrawn the bulk of its troops from Afghanistan — a war most Americans want to end anyway.  There are only about 950 Canadian soldiers left in Afghanistan, almost all of whom are there solely to train the Afghan army and all of whom will be withdrawn at the end of 2014. 
And retaliation concerning Iran would take the form of — what, exactly? Less support for further sanctions on Iran, which are already keeping Iranian civilians from getting lifesaving medicines? 
Another claim made in the Times article is that “a rejection could influence future decisions [by the Canadians] on purchases of American F-35 fighter jets.” But expert critics of wasteful Pentagon spending say the entire F-35 program is an unaffordable boondoggle that should be canceled outright.  Why should we press Canada to buy into a program that our own Pentagon spending critics say is an unaffordable boondoggle?
The foreign policy concerns of a pipeline rejection don’t end there, according to the New York Times:
The proposed northern extension of the nearly 2,000-mile Keystone XL pipeline would connect Canadaâ€™s oil sands to refineries around Houston and the Gulf of Mexico, replacing Venezuelan heavy crudeâ€¦.
The Times claims that Venezuela is an “unreliable” source, without providing any evidence that Venezuela may stop supplying the US with oil. This suggests that the true motivation at stake isn’t about maintaining oil supplies from Latin America, but about increasing the freedom of the US government to be more aggressive in Latin America in the future.
Tell Obama that the foreign policy concerns that should matter here are the people and governments around the world who are now — and those in the future who will be — affected by the devastating impacts of climate change. Keep your promise to act on climate change. Reject the permit for the Keystone pipeline.
The New York Times claims you have a difficult choice to make on the Keystone pipeline between Americans concerned about climate chaos and the conservative Canadian government which might retaliate against the U.S. But all the supposed threats from the Canadian government concern things that the majority of Americans have no stake in:
1. I don’t care if Canada supports the war in Afghanistan; in fact, I’m happy if they don’t. The war is supposed to be ending anyway and all Canadian troops are already set to be withdrawn at the end of 2014.
2. I don’t care if Canada supports crippling sanctions on Iran; in fact, I’m happy if they don’t. Current sanctions already violate international humanitarian law by blocking essential medicine imports to Iran.
3. I don’t care if Canada buys F-35 fighter jets; in fact, I’m happy if they don’t. The F-35 program is a colossal waste of U.S. taxpayers’ money and should be cancelled anyway.
I urge you to keep your promise to address climate chaos and reject the permit for the Keystone pipeline.
1. “Thousands at climate rally in Washington call on Obama to reject Keystone pipeline,” Valerie Volcovici, Reuters, February 17, 2013, http://news.yahoo.com/thousands-climate-rally-washington-call-obama-reject-keystone-232707433–finance.html
2. “Obama Faces Risks in Pipeline Decision,” John M. Broder, Clifford Krauss and Ian Austen, New York Times, February 17, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/18/business/energy-environment/obamas-keystone-pipeline-decision-risks-new-problems-either-way.html
3. “Majority support quick troop withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Pew Research Center, October 19, 2012, http://www.pewresearch.org/daily-number/majority-support-quick-troop-withdrawal-from-afghanistan/
4. “Stephen Harper confirms Canada’s soldiers will be out of Afghanistan after 2014,” Stephanie Levitz, National Post, May 21, 2012, http://news.nationalpost.com/2012/05/21/stephen-harper-confirms-canadas-combat-role-in-afghanistan-will-end-in-2014/
5. “Iran unable to get life-saving drugs due to international sanctions,” Julian Borger and Saeed Kamil Deghan, The Guardian, January 13, 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jan/13/iran-lifesaving-drugs-international-sanctions
6. “The Jet That Ate the Pentagon: The F-35 is a boondoggle. It’s time to throw it in the trash bin,” Winslow Wheeler, Foreign Policy, April 26, 2012, http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2012/04/26/the_jet_that_ate_the_pentagon
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