- After Tito's fun it might be
May 9, 2001
LONDON - Space being space can go in all sorts of
directions- Tito's pleasure trip to be followed by
Richard Branson's floating hotels. But it could, if the
U.S. Secretary of Defence, Donald Rumsfeld, has his way,
be filled with anti-satellite weapons, as the Pentagon
makes sure it is in total command of not just the land
beneath but also the sky above.
Rumsfeld chaired two important commissions whilst he
was out of office. The first, now well known, came up
with the argument that the threat of a ballistic missile
attack on the U.S. was "evolving more rapidly" than had
been previously thought. The second, which received much
less publicity, warned that the U.S. may someday face a
"Space Pearl Harbour" with a sneak attack on all
America's precious communication satellites orbiting the
planet. Space warfare has become "a virtual certainty",
Rumsfeld argued. His conclusion, reiterated in his news
conference on Tuesday, was that the U.S. must develop
"power projection in, from, and through space".
The enemy is assumed, first, to be the old one,
Russia, even though the Cold War and the reason for
conflict are supposedly dead and buried. And, second, the
new one, China, whom after years of wooing by successive
American governments, both Democratic and Republican, the
new Administration has now decided is enemy enough to
bring about the doubling of targets for U.S. nuclear
missiles. (One assumes that Richard Nixon must be turning
in his grave at all this.) Added to Russia and China are
the usual list of would-be rogues whom Rumsfeld
fancifully imagines, despite their relatively tiny
populations and paltry economies, might one day give the
almighty U.S. a run for its money in space.
But as we have seen with the issue of ballistic
missile defences it is Rumsfeld who has the ear of
President George Bush and it is only a matter of months,
in all likelihood, before the ideas of Rumsfeld's second
commission are turned into another important presidential
Space war has been an on and off political theme since
the big American fright at the launching of the Soviet
Sputnik in 1957, the first successful satellite.
President Lyndon Johnson said at the time, "Out in space,
there is the ultimate position - from which total control
of the earth may be exercised". But in practice both the
U.S. and the Soviet Union exercised great restraint and
took no serious steps in space to provoke the other.
Under President Ronald Reagan, however, with his
Strategic Defence Initiative meant to deploy space-based
weapons to shoot down incoming missiles, the U.S. was
prepared to unilaterally break this mutual understanding.
Fortunately, in the end, Reagan's program was blocked by
a Democratic Congress.
Rumsfeld's plan is even more ambitious. It is nothing
less than the total domination of space, a technological
feat of no mean proportions and one demanding an
astronomical budget to effect. It must be large enough
and so all encompassing, argued the Rumsfeld report, that
any countermeasures by other countries could be quickly
How will the rest of the world take to being dominated
from above? One doesn't have to be particularly
unfriendly to the U.S. to feel uncomfortable. More
naturally hostile or suspicious countries could well feel
they have been given no choice but to develop their own
antisatellite weapons in an attempt to blind U.S.
satellites, even though, since the U.S. will far outspend
them, the effort would become an ever receding goal.
The consequence is plain to see: not only the demise
of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty but the end of the
fruitful Strategic Arms Reduction Treaties that, for all
their limitations, have reduced the nuclear armouries of
the superpowers; and, not least, the general weakening of
world-wide non proliferation agreements and
understandings. This will be the ultimate in American
It will not only make enemies where none exist, it
will drive its Nato allies, already nervous and alarmed
about the consequences of the ballistic missile shield
plan, into a state of antipathy towards America.
"Man's reach should exceed his grasp or what is heaven
for?" wrote the English poet, Robert Browning. But not in
his wildest imagination could he have imagined that a new
earthly empire at the onset of the third millennium, full
of its conquest of the Soviet Union and European
communism, would be eying the total military control of
space to ensure that no would-be enemy - one that every
one else believes doesn't exist - would be out to spring
a devastating surprise attack.
Rumsfeld was worrying on television this week, in that
disarmingly naïve way that even hard-nosed Americans
sometimes have, about the return of the image of the
"ugly American". Who will explain to him why?
I can be reached by phone +44
7785 351172 and e-mail: JonatPower@aol.com
Copyright © 2001 By
Tell a friend about this article
Message and your name