Blogs > Cliopatria > Weapons, Space, and Unilateral Tendencies

Feb 21, 2008 7:02 pm

Weapons, Space, and Unilateral Tendencies

If the Bush administration does one thing well, it is to find creative ways to pursue its unilateralist agenda. A case in point: its use of a malfunctioning spy satellite as an excuse for testing the adaptation of an anti-missile system as an anti-satellite weapon.

While this launch is a clear response to a similar action by the Chinese in destroying a defunct weather satellite, there are differences. As Administration officials pointed out the US spy satellite was in a much lower orbit: 130 miles as oppose to 537 miles. The higher orbit made the Chinese test launch more disturbing both as a ratcheting up of a new arms race and as a new source of junk that could damage space craft from any country.

If this were in the context of Bush attempting to force negotiation on a more thorough and verifiable ban on space weaponry, one could defend the test as a nuanced use of force to point out the importance of such an agreement. But of course it is not. The Bush Administration opposes the currently proposed UN Treaty banning weapons in space, on the basis of the difficulties in verification. And they show no desire to look for solutions to the verification challenge.

This is foolish. Satellites are an integral part the US economy and, as information and communication resources, they are equally important to our national defense. They are also very hard to defend. Indeed, the only defense presently is the difficulty of reaching them. As the Chinese and American actions both demonstrate, that difficulty is declining.

Creating a defense system for our satellite network would be remarkably difficult. Technologically, it is a challenge that far outstrips those in creating an anti-missile system. Stopping ground bases launches would be hard because the missile’s flight path would likely not take it near any anti-missile systems aimed at defending the US. Space-based defensive weapons would be equally if not more adept at destroying the satellites of other nations and thus virtually require rival nations to send up their own arms.

This is a mad course of action. Finding and negotiating effective means of verification is a challenge, but it is in our best interest to try.

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Jonathan Dresner - 2/21/2008

No arguments here. It's escalation, pure and simple, and it's going to be up to the next president to find a way to put a stop to it. God willing.

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