War, the universe and everything

Space. The final frontier” for the placement of more weapons.

In the first update of national space policy in a decade, President Bush has signed a new set of guidelines, which reject the possibility of future arms-control agreements. These agreements might inhibit his God-given right to militarize the rest of the universe, and his rejection asserts the willingness of the administration to deny access to space to anyone “hostile to U.S. interests.”

While officials stress that this statement is not a prelude to the development of space weapons, the public has learned very little about the secretive new policy announced on Columbus Day with no official press conference.

It’s the culmination of a doctrine that has been in development since 2000, when a congressionally chartered panel led by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recommended developing space weapons to protect military and civilian satellites.

In 2004, the Air Force published a Counterspace Operations Doctrine that called for a more active military posture in space and stated that protecting U.S. satellites and spacecraft may require “deception, disruption, denial, degradation and destruction.”

The policy statement neither confirmed nor denied rumors of Dick Cheney’s plans to complete the Death Star before the mid-term elections.

However, experts warn that this new “Monroe-Doctrine-in-space” may increase international suspicions about the intentions of the U.S. space program.

Theresa Hitchens, director of the nonpartisan Center for Defense Information in Washington, said the new policy “kicks the door a little more open to a space-war fighting strategy” and has a “very unilateral tone to it.”

Martin Malin, director of a project for the American Academy of Arts and Sciences called Reconsidering the Rules of Space, has similarly warned of the policy’s potential for alienating the U.S.’s allies in Europe, Russia and elsewhere on which it relies for assistance in completing the still-unfinished International Space Station.

With U.S. diplomacy on Earth in shambles, the Bush administration seems poised to bring the same level of disregard for the international community into space.

What happened to the Bush who in 2004 called for a “new direction” for the space program that would return us to the moon and pave the way for “human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond?”

While his program was criticized for its potential costs, U.S. leaders should be encouraged to think ambitiously about space exploration.

Numerous technological breakthroughs have occurred thanks to experiments in space, and today we are completely reliant on satellites for global communications.

To back down from an area in which the U.S. has the potential to promote great innovation and scientific discovery would be a mistake.

But an even greater mistake would be to pursue policies that reduce global cooperation in space and promote an arms race.

Russia, whose space program is so broke it sells trips to space for around $20 million, is already responding to the new U.S. proclamation of galactic domination by increasing federal funding in order to employ space weapons of its own.

Of course, measures must be taken to defend all the expensive hardware we have put into space, and there is nothing wrong with planning ahead.

But belligerent statements about the control of space only serve to exasperate global suspicions about American intentions and get us no closer to Mars.

It’s another case of national security trumping multilateralism – a trade-off this country would be ill-advised to make again.

In 2002 we were duped into bombing Baghdad because of an implied connection to terrorism.

In 2020, we will learn that Al-Qaida is planning a laser attack from its moon base where bin Laden has cleverly been laying low.

Of course, the United Nations will be slow to act and drag its feet on weapons inspections.

Even in the weightlessness of space, the U.N. is helpless.


That’s when we will all be glad we let Dick Cheney build the Death Star.

I will miss the moon, but it is a small price to pay for national security.

Send comments to Jon Bosscher at [email protected].