Lately, the Bush administration has been trying
to play nice on the global stage emphasizing collaboration with other
countries on issues like nuclear proliferation and the "war on terror."
But the Bush administration's obsession with domination and control keeps cropping
up most recently in its new space policy, the first new statement of
U.S. objectives in outer space to be issued in 10 years. Released quietly on
the Friday before Columbus Day, in a move designed to generate little or no
media attention, that policy can be summed up in three words: mine, mine, mine.
The 10-page document lays out a scheme focused on establishing, defending and
enlarging U.S. control over space resources, arguing for "unhindered"
U.S. rights in space that are actively hostile to the concept of collective
security enshrined in the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. The opening asserts, "freedom
of action in space is as important to the United States as air power and sea
power." Alongside earlier documents like the U.S. Space Command's
Vision for 2020 which articulated a stance of "full spectrum dominance"
and insisted that "space superiority is emerging as an essential element
of battlefield success and future warfare" this new policy can been
interpreted as an opening shot in the race to militarize space.
The administration also throws in some phrases to appeal to Star Trek fans
and internationalists. The United States "will seek to cooperate with other
nations in the peaceful use of outer space" and "is committed to the
exploration and use of outer space by all nations for peaceful purposes, and
for the benefit of all humanity." But these Captain Kirk-worthy sentiments
immediately are contradicted when "peaceful purposes" is clarified
to include "U.S. defense and intelligence related activities in pursuit
of national interests." Five of the seven United States policy goals mention
"national security" and/or "defending our interests."
The space policy is clearest when it is explaining why international laws do
not apply. For example, the policy states that the Bush administration "Will
oppose the development of new legal regimes or other restrictions that seek
to prohibit or limit U.S. access to or use of space." Space joins global
warming, nuclear proliferation and the arms trade as areas where the administration
has opted for a unilateralist approach backed by military superiority over an
internationalist approach embracing collective security and mutual benefit.
Soon after the policy was released, Robert Luaces, U.S. Representative to the
U.N. General Assembly on National Space Policy, tried to reassure the world
that the United States isn't trying to weaponize space. He said "One,
there is no arms race in space. Two; there is no prospect for one. Three; the
United States will protect its access to and use of space."
This statement is belied by U.S. military funding for space projects. According
to the Government Accountability Office, Pentagon funding for military space
operations will total $20 billion in 2007. Additionally, a Stimson Center comparison
of U.S. and world spending found that the United States expends almost 90 percent
of the total global spending on military-related activities in space.
There is an arms race in space, but so far the United States is the only country
in the running devoting millions to systems like the Common Aero Vehicle,
which is envisioned as a "hypersonic glide vehicle" to "dispense
conventional weapons, sensors and payloads worldwide from and through space
within one hour" of being fired. The Common Aero was given $33.4 million
Space-invested nations like Russia, China and India will accelerate their programs
to catch up. Other countries may not field their own satellites but can perfect
methods of bringing ours down, making many of the space-dependent technologies
we take for granted from accu-weather forecasts to cell phone communication
to air traffic control vulnerable to attack.
The only way to win the space arms race is not to run it. And given that problems
right here on earth are bedeviling U.S. and world leaders, striking out into
the vast and uncharted regions of war in space seems like a very, very bad idea.