Viewpoint: Trump’s space force would spark an arms race

Donald Trump, who has demonstrated he is like a child playing with trucks and toy soldiers, now has proposed creating a whole new (sixth) branch of the US armed forces: a Space Force, complete with its own logo. (His re-election campaign giddily invited supporters to vote on which to pick.)

“My new national strategy for space recognizes that space is a war-fighting domain, just like…land, and air, and sea,” Trump said in March.

Trump is effectively declaring war in space, inviting a new arms race among nations – China, Russia, North Korea, Pakistan, India – that will make the nuclear arms race seem quaint.

His thinking was clear shortly after seizing the White House in his “congratulatory” phone call to the International Space Station, when in response to the astronaut’s reflection on how the space station is an exemplar for international cooperation, Trump remarked what an excellent platform that was to attack earth.
While Trump has been vague in what he envisioned, it was left to VP Pence to give more detail:

“The space environment has fundamentally changed in the last generation. What was once peaceful and uncontested is now crowded and adversarial. Today, other nations are seeking to disrupt our space-based systems and challenge American supremacy in space as never before.”

Various nations including Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, he said, have pursued weapons to jam, blind, and disable our navigation and communications satellites via electronic attacks from the ground, and now are working to bring new weapons of war into space.

In 2007, China launched a missile that tracked and destroyed one of its own satellites to demonstrate its growing capability to militarize space, and Russia has been designing an airborne laser to disrupt our space-based system.

And it claims to be developing missiles that can be launched from an aircraft mid-flight to destroy American satellites.

Both nations also are developing hypersonic missiles designed to fly up to five miles per second at such low altitudes that they could potentially evade detection by our missile-defense radars. In fact, China claimed to have made its first successful test of a hypersonic vehicle just last week, Pence said.

“As their actions make clear, our adversaries have transformed space into a warfighting domain already. And the United States will not shrink from this challenge. Under President Trump’s leadership, we will meet it head on to defend our nation and build a peaceful future here on Earth and in space…. But history proves that peace only comes through strength. And in the realm of outer space, the United States Space Force will be that strength in the years ahead.

“And now we must do our part to make bold breakthroughs, strengthen America’s industrial base, and deliver the cutting-edge warfighting capabilities faster than our adversaries could ever imagine.

And that’s exactly what Americans will do. ..And the next generation of Americans to confront the emerging threats in the boundless expanse of space will be wearing the uniform of the United States of America as well.”

Now the United States already has a Space Command that is part of the Air Force that is doing these things. But what Trump is doing is to provoke a new weapons race.

Be clear, weaponizing space is also raising the threat of nuclear holocaust geometrically, since these weapons would likely be nuclear-powered.

Equally hideous is the fact that these billions and billions of dollars for space weaponry and soldiers is that much less we and other nations will have to spend on education, health care, infrastructure, addressing climate change and the famine, drought, wildfires, air pollution and devastation and conflict that hundreds of millions of climate refugees will cause – in short, anything that adds to quality of life.

This wouldn’t be a new Cold War, it would be a Hot War, it would be an arms race such as never seen before.

Moreover, this isn’t a $12 billion enterprise – that’s just the loss-leader price tag being dangled.

That would be a joke (each rocket launch costs $1.5 billion, but development costs hundreds of billions). But the bigger joke is that a similar level of disruption and chaos – communications, navigation, infrastructure – could be accomplished through cyberwarfare and a heck of a lot cheaper, with a lot less destruction of habitat for the victor to exploit.

And that’s the battlefield Trump is conveniently ignoring.

Instead of exacerbating the threat of nuclear extinction and space wars which cannot be won (we now know that “deterrence” isn’t a strategy), governments should be negotiating nuclear nonproliferation (put that Pandora back in its box) and a renewed Outer Space Treaty, which since 1967, has designated space as a global commons to be used for peaceful purposes (Russia and China, as well as the United States, are parties to the treaty).

Instead of upping the stakes for war, the U.S. should move aggressively to ban the weapons that are under development now in order to prevent a new Pandora from being released on humanity.

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