Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Weapons in Space

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Excel web sharing - spreadsheet collaboration over the Internet made easy with BadBlueThe Gray Lady reports that the Air Force is seeking President Bush's approval of a national security directive that would permit deployment of space-based weapons.

The proposed change would be a substantial shift in American policy. It would almost certainly be opposed by many American allies and potential enemies, who have said it may create an arms race in space.

These are probably the same people who opposed Reagan's plans in the eighties. Don't these people read history books? Actually, it would help circumvent an arms race in space just as Ronald Reagan's massive commitment to defense spending, and SDI in particular, ended the Cold War.

Any deployment of space weapons would face financial, technological, political and diplomatic hurdles, although no treaty or law bans Washington from putting weapons in space, barring weapons of mass destruction.

Let me guess what that means: the U.N. will oppose it. All the more reason to send John Bolton to Kofiville.

The focus of the process is not putting weapons in space," said Maj. Karen Finn, an Air Force spokeswoman, who said that the White House, not the Air Force, makes national policy. "The focus is having free access in space."

Exactly. Should we have abstained from developing nuclear weapons during World War II for fear of inciting a nuclear arms race with the Nazis? The United States is the greatest country on the face of the earth, inherently and provably peaceful, and it is imperative that we stay ahead of those whose intentions are opaque.

With little public debate, the Pentagon has already spent billions of dollars developing space weapons and preparing plans to deploy them.

The point being: this effort is probably underway.

The Air Force believes "we must establish and maintain space superiority," Gen. Lance Lord, who leads the Air Force Space Command, told Congress recently. "Simply put, it's the American way of fighting." Air Force doctrine defines space superiority as "freedom to attack as well as freedom from attack" in space.

Exactly. If we can't ensure the safety of our space-based platforms (e.g., satellite reconaissance), we place ourselves at the mercy of those would might blind us during hostilities.

A new Air Force strategy, Global Strike, calls for a military space plane carrying precision-guided weapons armed with a half-ton of munitions. General Lord told Congress last month that Global Strike would be "an incredible capability" to destroy command centers or missile bases "anywhere in the world..."

...In April, the Air Force launched the XSS-11, an experimental microsatellite with the technical ability to disrupt other nations' military reconnaissance and communications satellites.

Another Air Force space program, nicknamed Rods From God, aims to hurl cylinders of tungsten, titanium or uranium from the edge of space to destroy targets on the ground, striking at speeds of about 7,200 miles an hour with the force of a small nuclear weapon.

A third program would bounce laser beams off mirrors hung from space satellites or huge high-altitude blimps, redirecting the lethal rays down to targets around the world. A fourth seeks to turn radio waves into weapons whose powers could range "from tap on the shoulder to toast," in the words of an Air Force plan.

That's what I'm talking about.

Senior military and space officials of the European Union, Canada, China and Russia have objected publicly to the notion of American space superiority.

They think that "the United States doesn't own space - nobody owns space," said Teresa Hitchens, vice president of the Center for Defense Information, a policy analysis group in Washington that tends to be critical of the Pentagon. "Space is a global commons under international treaty and international law."

Fine. But until you get the U.N.'s Space Police patrolling up there, we'll take responsibility for maintaining order.

No nation will "accept the U.S. developing something they see as the death star," Ms. Hitchens told a Council on Foreign Relations meeting last month. "I don't think the United States would find it very comforting if China were to develop a death star, a 24/7 on-orbit weapon that could strike at targets on the ground anywhere in 90 minutes."

Better the U.S. with a death star... than China. That much is certain.

NY Times: Air Force Seeks Bush's Approval for Space Weapons Programs

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