Waging War in Space

Presentation at Annual Conference of Consortium on Peace Research
Education & Development Association and Peace Studies Association
University of Texas at Austin

April 1, 2000

By Karl Grossman

The U.S. military is seeking to turn space into new arena of war.

It wants to "control space," to "dominate" space and from it the Earth below-and "control" and "dominate" are words used repeatedly in U.S. military documents-samples of which are attached here. The U.S. military, further, would like to base weapons in space.

There is only a narrow window to stop these plans from going forward and preventing what inevitably would follow: other nations will meet the U.S. in kind and there will be an arms race and ultimately war in space.

The plans are explicitly laid out in documents including the Vision For 2020 report of the U.S. Space Command. The U.S. Space Command "coordinates the use of Army, Naval and Air Force Space Forces" and was set up by the Pentagon to "help institutionalize the use of space," notes its web site www.spacecom.af.mil.

The multi-colored cover of Vision For 2020 depicts a laser weapon shooting a beam down from space zapping a target below.

US Space Commands Vision 2020 front cover
The US Space Command Vision

The 1996 report then proclaims in wording laid out like in the start of the Star Wars movies: "US Space Command-dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict."

US Space Commands Vision 2020 inside cover
The US Space Command Vision

Vision For 2020 compares the U.S. effort to control space and the Earth below to how centuries ago "nations built navies to protect and enhance their commercial interests" by ruling the seas.

Vision For 2020 also considers the global economy-of which the U.S. is the locomotive. "The globalization of the world economy will also continue, with a widening between 'haves' and 'have-nots,'" says the U.S. Space Command in Vision For 2020.

The view apparently is that by controlling space and the Earth below, the U.S. will be able to keep those "have-nots" in line.

The U.S. military not only acknowledges-it proudly points to-U.S. corporate interests being involved in helping set U.S. space military doctrine.

As the Long Range Plan of the U.S. Space Command starts out: "The Long Range Plan has been US Space Command's #1 priority for the past 11 months, investing nearly 20 man-years to make it a reality. The development and production process, by design, involved hundreds of people including about 75 corporations."

US Space Commands Long Range Plan
The US Space Command Long Range Plan

The 1998 Long Range Plan goes on to list those 75 corporations-beginning with Aerojet and going through Battelle and Lockheed Martin and Rand to TRW and Vista Technologies.

Guardians of the High Frontier, a 1997 Air Force Space Command report, declares that: "Space is the ultimate `high ground.'" The Air Force Space Command is committed to "the control and exploitation of space," it says.

A Space Command motto: "Master of Space." That pretty well sums up the U.S. military attitude toward space.

Master of Space
Master of Space

As General Joseph Ashy, then commander-in-chief of the U.S. Space Command, told Aviation Week & Space Technology (August 5, 1996): "It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen. Some people don't want to hear this, and it sure isn't in vogue, but-absolutely-we're going to fight in space. We're going to fight from space and we're going to fight into space….That's why the U.S. has development programs in directed energy and hit-to-kill mechanisms."

General Ashy spoke of "space control," the U.S. military's term for control of space, and "space force application," its definition of control of Earth from space. Said General Ashy: "We'll expand into these two missions because they will become increasingly important. We will engage terrestrial targets someday-ships, airplanes, land targets-from space. We will engage targets in space, from space."

This is far more than reports and rhetoric. A multi-million dollar contract was signed in 1998 for a "Space-Based Laser Readiness Demonstrator." The military's poster for this laser shows it firing its ray in space while an American flag somehow waves in space above it.

Space based laser system
Space based laser system

Billions of dollars a year are going annually into what is now called U.S. Ballistic Missile Defense, renamed from Strategic Defense Initiative, the "Star Wars" program under Reagan and Bush. Missile defense? In context, what the U.S. military appears to want is in large part not defense but offense.

Annual BMD expenditure 1985-1999
Annual BMD expenditure 1985-1999 (from BMDO website)

"With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we're going to keep it," Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force for Space Keith Hall, who is also director of the National Reconnaissance Office, told the National Space Club in 1997.

In Congress, there is now consideration of breaking up the U.S. Air Force and creating a U.S. Space Force. The U.S., says U.S. Senator Bob Smith, a New Hampshire Republican, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee's Strategic Subcommittee, must have "space supremacy."

A 13-member Congressional panel-being called the Commission to Assess U.S. National Security Space Management and Organization-is being formed to look at all aspects of how a new U.S. Space Force would operate.

Because of the U.S. military's plans for space, a vote was called this past November 1 in the United Nations General Assembly to reaffirm the Outer Space Treaty and, specifically, its provision that space shall be set aside "for peaceful purposes."

Some 138 nations voted for the motion titled: "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space." The United States and Israel abstained.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared at the opening in January last year of the UN Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland that space must be maintained "as a weapons-free environment."

Said Wang Xiaoyu, First Secretary of the Delegation of China, at a seminar at the UN in Geneva last March on "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space"-which I keynoted- organized by the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom:

"Outer space is the common heritage of human beings. It should be used entirely for peaceful purposes and for the economic, scientific, and cultural development of all countries as well as the well-being of mankind. It must not be weaponized and become another arena of the arms race." The following day, at the UN Conference on Disarmament, Li Changhe, Ambassador for Disarmament Affairs of China, formally proposed "an international legal instrument banning the test, deployment and use of any weapons, weapon system and their components in outer space, with a view to preventing the weaponization of outer space."

China received wide support from other nations on the motion.

But the U.S. has been blocking movement on the motion ever since.

Craig Eisendrath, a former U.S. State Department officer who helped create the Outer Space Treaty, notes that keeping space weapons-free was the original intent of the treaty. Dr. Eisendrath told a workshop I led on weapons-in-space issues at the Hague Appeal for Peace Conference in The Netherlands last June that it was in the wake of the Soviet launching of its Sputnik satellite in 1957 that the U.S. sought to "de-weaponize" space-before it got weaponized. The State Department, Eisendrath explained, used the Antarctica Treaty as a model for the Outer Space Treaty.

But the treaty ended up "just" banning "nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction" in space.

We have only a brief span of time to return to the treaty's original intent.

The Future of War: Power, Technology & American World Dominance in the 2lst Century - yes, American World Dominance in the 2lst Century - by George and Meredith Friedman is an exposition on the proposition that the U.S. can dominate the Earth for many years to come through the military control of space. "The manner in which wars are waged is undergoing a dramatic transformation, which will greatly enhance American power," states the 1997 book.

As to other countries responding to the U.S., George Friedman, in an interview (Parade, April 6, 1997), says that other nations are just "passing blips" -he specifically names Russia, Japan and China-in competing with the U.S. militarily in space.

The Future Of War concludes: "Just as by the year 1500 it was apparent that the European experience of power would be its domination of the global seas, it does not take much to see that the American experience of power will rest on the domination of space….Just as Europe expanded war and its power to the global oceans, the United States is expanding war and its power into space….Just as Europe shaped the world for half a millenium, so too the United States will shape the world for at least that length of time. For better or worse, America has seized hold of the future of war…"

Last year in Geneva, after my presentation at the workshop on "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space," a high U.S. official spoke to me striking similar notes.

In the wake of the Vietnam War, "we can't field large numbers of ground troops," the U.S. official explained. This was "done for Desert Storm," but that took "nine months of a drum roll." However, the "we can project power from space," said the official, and that that is why the U.S. is moving in this way.

There are profound issues involved in U.S. plans to "control space" and from it the Earth below, I said, remarking that "my uncles didn't come to Europe" during World War II to fight for that kind of U.S. I added that in the 1980s I wrote a book on U.S. intervention in Nicaragua (Nicaragua: America's New Vietnam?) and I am not naïve about U.S. imperialistic ventures but "the U.S. seeking to control space and from it the Earth below is way beyond the Monroe Doctrine." Moreover, if the U.S. moved ahead with this, would not other nations respond and an arms race in space ensue?

The official replied that the U.S. military has done analyses and concluded that China is "30 years behind" in competing with U.S. militarily in space. And Russia "doesn't have the money." I mentioned traveling to China, seeing the technological power of that nation and I pointed to its space prowess-U.S. companies are using China for launches. If the U.S. moves to "control space" and the Earth below, to deploy weapons in space, the Chinese would be up there-in something like three, not 30 years, I suggested. And Russia might not have the rubles now, but it's a nation rich in natural resources and with enormous space abilities. A huge, potentially catastrophic miscalculation is being made, I said, heading the world to war in the heavens.

A further note: U.S. military plans for space also will likely involve the use of nuclear power as an energy source for space-based weapons.

The weapons the U.S. military is interested in deploying in space-notably lasers-will need large amounts of power and nuclear energy is seen as a power source.

As New World Vistas: Air And Space Power For The 2lst Century, a 1996 U.S. Air Force board report, states: "In the next two decades, new technologies will allow the fielding of space-based weapons of devastating effectiveness to be used to deliver energy and mass as force projection in tactical and strategic conflict…These advances will enable lasers with reasonable mass and cost to effect very many kills." But "power limitations impose restrictions" on such-based weapons systems making them "relatively unfeasible….A natural technology to enable high power," it goes on, "is nuclear power in space."

"Setting the emotional issues of nuclear power aside, this technology offers a viable alternative for large amounts of power in space," asserts New World Vistas.

The worldwide organization that is challenging U.S. military plans for space is the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space based in Gainesville, Florida. "If the U.S. is allowed to move the arms race into space, there will be no return," says its coordinator, Bruce Gagnon.

"We have this once chance, this one moment in history," says Gagnon, "to stop the weaponization of space from happening."

The Global Network is sponsoring "Star Wars Revisited: An International Conference on Preventing an Arms Race in Space" to be held a little over two weeks from now-April 14th to 17th-in Washington, D.C.

"The people of the U.S., the people of the world," says Gagnon, "must learn about what the U.S. is up to-and stop it."

Nations should join together--as UN Secretary-General Annan said at the beginning of last year -"to codify principles which can ensure that outer space remains weapons-free."

Keep Space For Peace is the title of the four days of protest events being organized by the Global Network in Washington.

People all over the world must come together to insure that the heavens not be turned into a war zone. We must, indeed, work to keep space for peace.

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at SUNY/College at Old Westbury, has specialized in investigative reporting for more than 30 years.
Books he has authored include The Wrong Stuff : The Space Program's Nuclear Threat To Our Planet (Common Courage Press).
He is writer and narrator of the video documentary Nukes In Space: The Nuclearization and Weaponization of the Heavens (EnviroVideo, 1-800-ECO-TV46).
He is a charter member of the Commission on Disarmament Education, Conflict Resolution and Peace of the International Association of University Presidents and the United Nations.
Home address: Box 1680, Sag Harbor, New York 11963.
Telephone: (631) 725-2858. E-mail: kgrossman@hamptons.com

The Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power In Space can be reached by telephone at (352) 337-9274
and E-Mail at globalnet@mindspring.com
Its address is PO Box 90083, Gainesville, FL 32607
and its Web Site: www.globenet.free-online.co.uk

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