The space weapons debate, continued
by Taylor Dinerman
|The prevailing “sanctuary” school of thought within the US Government sadly resembles the various attempts by the British government and the London elite in the early 20th century to make time stand still.|
In his speech January 29 at the Heritage Foundation, Senator John Kyl (R-AZ) pointed out that the US has an effective space control policy and doctrine, but that we refuse to back up our words with any programs or hardware. We have a counterspace jammer that may or may not work, but aside from that our toolbox is empty and may remain so for a long time to come. The bottom line is that we are debating while others are building. Why do those who promote agreements and unverifiable moratoriums want to perpetuate America’s weakness in space?
The prevailing “sanctuary” school of thought within the US Government sadly resembles the various attempts by the British government and the London elite in the early 20th century to make time stand still, so as to preserve the technological and geopolitical advantages which made the British Empire the world’s dominant power. Stubborn refusal to accept the implications of technological change and to adapt to this fact doomed the British Empire. The world was full of enemies who were seeking any elements of weaknesses in Britain structure of power. British politicians, with a few exceptions, kept their heads firmly buried in the sand.
For example, there were powerful elements inside the Royal Navy that resisted every major, and many minor, improvements in both gunnery and naval air power. Another case was the way the British Army fired their top tank expert, General Hobart, a few months before the Nazi tank divisions cut the guts out of the Allied armies in Northern Europe. Even worse, the establishment fought tenaciously against providing resources for training engineers, scientists, and managers, and instead chose to fund ever greater numbers of experts in Greek and Latin. British historian Corelli Barnett’s writings on this subject have been nitpicked, but his basic critique has stood the test of time.
The ability of an established bureaucracy to resist change is never to be underestimated. When resources and budgets are limited, they will naturally flow to the priority projects that are well understood. Only when outsiders have the gall to interfere does this ever change. A good example is the way the A-10 ground support aircraft was forced on an unwilling Air Force in the 1970s. More to the point, the defense establishment spent years defending the Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) concept until President Reagan gave his March 1983 “Star Wars” speech. After they recovered from their shock, members of the armed forces and Defense Department civilians came to understand that the MAD doctrine to which they had devoted so many years was dead, and they learned to adapt to the change.
The debate over space weapons and over the budgets and organization that they require will go on for many years to come. The basic question is whether the US can overcome the forces of weakness and inertia before it finds itself outclassed and outfought? Churchill called World War Two the “unnecessary war”. If we act soon we could avoid such wars for at least the next half-century. Without space weapons the unmatched ability of US forces to dominate the battlefield due to superior information resources and situational awareness will become a thing of the past.
In the immortal words of a British officer in Iraq, “One should never confuse situational awareness with knowing what is actually going on.” We are tracking a number of Chinese satellites that may or may not be positioned to attack American spacecraft; without close up inspection there is no way to even begin to understand what these satellites are doing. Even if we do get a good look at them, that may not be enough.
|In the end, America’s freedom to use space will have to be actively defended. Negotiations over space debris or calls for talks or moratoriums merely prolong US vulnerability.|
Space weapons are fairly easy to improvise and difficult to defend against. Keeping US space assets safe and operational in a weaponized environment is not going to be easy or cheap. The anti-weapons people are right about this, but keeping our satellites and our homeland more or less defenseless is to ignore the nature of warfare, history, and physics. If the US is to retaliate after a Chinese attack on our space systems by hitting their satellites, the question must be “with what?”
Theoretically the US could improvise its own space weapons within a few months, but that is politically and legally unlikely. Government procurement regulations paralyze everything from effective post-hurricane aid, the development of urgent technology for Iraq, and any number of other projects. Even after a Chinese attack, the opponents of US space weapons can probably be counted on to do everything they can to prevent US action. For example they might propose negotiations or a space ceasefire in order to prevent a timely US response.
In the end, America’s freedom to use space will have to be actively defended. Negotiations over space debris or calls for talks or moratoriums merely prolong US vulnerability. The Bush Administration and Congress are going to have to debate this issue and reach a decision. Either they will chose effective and expensive defense systems or they can choose to maintain this country’s vulnerability. If they put their trust in international agreements and negotiations they will condemn America to a future tactical and possibly strategic defeat.