Transcendental Bloviation

Politics, Space, Japan

Saturday, October 21, 2006

All Your Space Are Belong to U.S.

Go, USA! America claims the right to deny access to space to any nation it considers a threat to its national interests.
The United States considers space capabilities -- including the ground and space segments and supporting links -- vital to its national interests. Consistent with this policy, the United States will: [...] deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests ...
One could argue that it's academic, that it's just a forthright clarification of a space hegemony established at least as long ago as the end of the Cold War. Not only has space been latently militarized by ICBMs for many decades, ICBMs may be the only reason why we have space programs at all. Basing missile launchers on the ground, on aircraft and on submarines is simply the most convenient and cost effective mode of deployment. If there were some reason why they would be better based in orbit, or on the Moon, we'd be doing that.

What's a little scary is that "if necessary" part. (Not to mention "national interest", which is much broader than "national security".) It was necessary, we were told, to go into Iraq to deny Saddam his WMD capability, to disrupt his cooperation with al Qaeda. Oops. Now we're told it's necessary to establish freedom and democracy in Iraq rather than have our oil supply in the hands of terrorist sympathizers.

Are you worried about North Korean nukes and missiles? Well, so am I. A little. Maybe I should be: I live in Tokyo, in a little firetrap ryokan. A nuclear tipped missile from the North would be a distinctly non-peaceful use of outer space. But I'm actually more worried about Condoleezza Rice, who asserts that North Korea is still acting "belligerent" because, when she was in Beijing being briefed about North Korea by the Chinese, they made no mention of Kim Jong Il apologizing for his nuke testing and saying he wouldn't do it again. Well, duh, Condi: maybe your Chinese hosts just assume you read the papers? It sort of reminds me of Dubya finally getting clear on why he should care about North Korea at all--Saudi Prince Bandar (of all people) had to explain to him that, if North invaded South, a lot of people would die quickly, including U.S. troops stationed there. Bush had been complaining that his people had been giving him these long, seemingly pointless, briefings about the history and significance of North Korea. Maybe his briefers just assumed, reasonably enough, that he knew what the Tripwire strategy was about already, and wanted more background.

"Deny, if proven necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national security" -- that's language I might be able to live with. But that's not what it says. What it does say is troubling. To a lot of people. When a UN resolution called "Prevention of Outer Space Arms Race" came to a vote, only the U.S. voted in favor. There were only two abstentions: Israel, and the Federated States of Micronesia. If these two virtual dependencies of the U.S. couldn't even bring themselves to vote yes, you have to wonder what the rest of the world must be thinking.


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