Whose space security?
by Taylor Dinerman
|As some of them, and their supporters, explained, their principal goal was to prevent an “arms race in space”; in fact, since such a race already exists, any arms control agreements further restricting US military space efforts would have the effect of helping America’s enemies and rivals to catch up.|
Due to its heavy dependence on space assets, the US is vulnerable to a “Space Pearl Harbor”. Because of the Missile Defense Agency’s slow progress with midcourse intercept systems, this nation badly needs space-based boost-phase kill vehicles if it is to be effectively defended against long-range ballistic missiles. With these and other space weapons America’s global military superiority will be insured for at least another half century. For the overwhelming majority of Americans this is a self-evidently good thing, but internationally such an attitude is not universally shared. Those who wish to reduce American power now see international arms control treaties and what is termed “lawfare” as a way to accomplish their goals.
Previous agreements such as Salt 1 and 2, the ABM Treaty, the Non Proliferation Treaty, the Biological Warfare Conventions, and so on, have been violated with few, if any, consequences by the former USSR and such states as North Korea and Iran. High Frontier Chairman Ambassador Hank Cooper explained that when he was head of the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO; now known as the Missile Defense Agency, MDA) the US bent over backwards to stay within the limits of the ABM treaty even if this meant conducting experiments designed more by lawyers than by engineers.
In spite—or perhaps because of—the presence of a member of the Japanese upper house, many of the other legislators and the activists present were particularly hostile to Japan’s collaboration with the US in order to defend itself from a devastating potential attack. The fact that the North Korean nuclear program was developed while that nation was a member in good standing of the Non Proliferation Treaty says all that one really needs to know about the effectiveness of such treaties as instruments of national defense.
Those who claim that a US deployment of space weapons would set off an arms race tend to think that such races are, in and of themselves, bad things. The US success in using such a race to defeat the Soviet Union is discounted, as is the potential for the US to benignly use its space supremacy to permit the peaceful uses of outer space just as its sea and air supremacy allow for the global nonbelligerent use of those mediums today. This point was made by Everett Dolman of the Air University at Maxwell Air Force Base.
|Since this hearing was put on by and for politicians, there was no reason to expect them to be well acquainted with the technical and scientific details of the subject they were examining. Nevertheless, sometimes the contradictions and the ignorance were pretty astounding.|
One way to think about the effort to ban space weapons might be to imagine what a peace campaign in the late 1930s might have looked like if Britain’s radar development program had been public knowledge. At that time there might have been an attempt to forbid the “weaponization of the electromagnetic spectrum”. Prominent individuals in and out of government would have pushed for the establishment of a “Zone of Peace in the Ether”. The RAF’s development of a networked air defense system might have been seriously delayed, with dire results in the summer of 1940.
Since this hearing was put on by and for politicians, there was no reason to expect them to be well acquainted with the technical and scientific details of the subject they were examining. Nevertheless, sometimes the contradictions and the ignorance were pretty astounding. One foreign guest was thoroughly confused by the issue of nuclear power and propulsion, which would have been fine if she had not used such a patently accusatory tone. Another European guest seemed to imagine that there was a worldwide shortage of launch capability and not, as we are all far too aware, a global glut and thus a scramble for just about any payload possible. A space weapons test and development program to be carried out in the early years of the next decade would go a long way towards keeping all of America’s space launch systems in full operation, unlike the problematic future that many of them now face.
More seriously, one senior US Democrat managed to claim that space weapons were useless because of the high cost of space access per pound, and then said that US satellites need no defenses since they could be equipped with extra fuel for maneuvering purposes and could also be armored, as if these alternatives could be done without adding any more weight to the spacecraft involved. Defending US spacecraft from asymmetric or other types of attack is going to be a difficult problem under the best of circumstances; to expect the US military to do so while operating with one or both hands tied behind their back is neither logical nor likely.
The limits that some of these international parliamentarians and other supporters of a ban on US space weapons (which is clearly what we are talking about) are of the kind normally imposed on a defeated and occupied nation by the victorious powers. As with so many similar international agreements, such as Kyoto and the International Criminal Court, those who support them wish to have the results of a military victory over the US without going to the trouble of fighting a war.