Sunday, November 22, 2009

Space Ghosts

Oh noes!

WASHINGTON — America's once clear dominance in space is eroding as other nations, including China, Iran and North Korea, step up their activities, a panel of experts told the House subcommittee on Space and Aeronautics Thursday.

"China is laying the groundwork for a long-term space program with or without us,'' said Scott Pace, director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington University in Washington. "We should worry if we're not out there with them.''

Last year, China launched a Venezuelan-owned communications satellite that "enabled Venezuela to extend its influence throughout Latin America and the Caribbean,'' Williamson said. The satellite broadcasts Venezuela's TeleSUR channel, which Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has styled as the alternative to U.S.-based news broadcasts.

Why should we be so worried, you ask? Take it away, Noam:

An even greater threat is posed by expansion of the arms race into space; the term "race" is inappropriate, because the U.S. is, for now, competing alone. Its goal is to achieve "full spectrum dominance": a monopoly of the use of space for military purposes. These plans have been available in government documents for some years, and the projects outlined have been under development. They were expanded in the first months of the Bush administration and again since September 11, in a crude exploitation of the fear and horror engendered by these crimes.

It is conventional everywhere for attack to be called "defense", and this case is no exception: the plans for militarisation of space are disguised as "ballistic missile defence" (BMD), only a small component of what is planned. That is understood by other countries, including close allies, and has been clearly articulated and sometimes warmly applauded by strategic analysts, who point out that "missile defense isn't really meant to protect America [but] is a tool for global dominance," for "hegemony."

It is well-understood that BMD, even if technically feasible, must rely on satellite communication, and destroying satellites is far easier than shooting down missiles. That is one reason why the US must seek "full spectrum dominance," such overwhelming control of space that even the poor man's weapons will not be available to an adversary. And that requires offensive space-based capacities, including enormously destructive weapons that can be launched with instant computer-controlled reaction, greatly increasing the risk of vas slaughter and devastation if only because of what are called in the trade "normal accidents" - the unpredictable accidents to which all complex systems are subject.

The goals of militarisation of space extend far beyond, however. The US Space Command is very explicit about this. Its Clinton-era publications announce the primary goal prominently: "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment." This is presented as the next phase of the historic task of military forces. Armies were needed "during the westward expansion of the continental United States" - of course in self defense, against the indigenous population. Nations also build navies, the Space Command continues, "to protect and enhance their commercial interests." The next logical step is space forces to protect "U.S. national interests [military and commercial] and investments." But US space forces will be unlike "navies protecting sea commerce" because there will be a sole hegemon. The British Navy could be countered by Germany, with consequences we need not discuss. But the US, somehow, will remain immune -except, of course, to the narrowly circumscribed category of "terrorism" that is permitted to enter the canon.

The need for total dominance will increase as a result of the "globalisation of the economy," the Space Command explains. The reason is that "globalisation" is expected to bring about "a widening between 'haves' and 'have-nots'," an assessment shared by US intelligence. Planners are concerned that the widening divide may lead to unrest among the have-nots, which the US must be ready to control by "using space systems and planning for precision strike from space" as a "counter to the worldwide proliferation of BMD" by unruly elements - a predictable consequence of the recommended programs, just as the "widening divide" is an anticipated consequence of the preferred from of "globalisation."