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Hot Lead And Blue Steal (II)

Yesterday, I discussed a story covered by my colleagues over at Wizbang Blue about advances in military technology. Oddly enough, shortly after that one was published, another author there wrote a similar story -- this one about the militarization of space.

Paul Hooson's piece is a bit on the hysterical side, but he brings up a good topic: just what should we do about the militarizing of space?

I spent a couple of hours trying to track down a quote I'd read years ago, and utterly failed. (This is where one of you cheerfully chimes in "oh, the exact phrasing is XXX, and it was said by YYY in the book ZZZ.") The closest I can recall it was something like "if you do not control the peaks, you will surely die in the valleys."

In military terms, the advantage is almost always to the side that hold the higher ground. You can see further, shoot further, and move faster. You have a natural cover, while the enemy is more exposed. And the enemy will be slowed when trying to attack you, as they must scale the heights to reach you.

This was a large factor in the development of air power, as it allowed forces to bypass natural terrain limitations and strike with relative impunity. Also, the force of gravity was a tremendous ally -- the Air Force has a saying: "Cluster bombing from B-52s is very, very accurate. The bombs always hit the ground."

In that context, space is the ultimate "high ground." It's why we put communications and spy satellites up -- they can reach around nearly all terrain obstacles and work their magic.

And it's a wonderful place to put weapons.

In Robert Heinlein's "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," a lunar colony rebels against Earth rule. Their primary weapons are mass drivers, electromagnetic catapults used to launch ore into space for refining and processing in orbital factories. The rebels re-aim them at Earth.

In essence, they are threatening to toss big rocks at the Earth, a flashback to medieval times. But because those rocks will be falling from space, they'll hit with a force greater than an atomic bomb -- and they do.

For years, actual weapons were -- by and large -- kept out of space by treaties. This was not some high principle, but simple fear: all parties were afraid of the others gaining advantage in this new celestial arms race, and agreed to the terms to avoid losing an advantage.

But the collapse of the Soviet Union changed all those equations. Suddenly, we had no one to negotiate with.

The United States saw that there were other threats on the horizon -- such as North Korea's experimentation with long-range missiles and nuclear weapons -- and started looking to space for defense. While it's nice to see an incoming missile from space, it's even better to stop it from there before it gets too close to us. This led to a resurgence in ballistic missile defense measures, something we had signed away in various treaties -- but the nation we had made those pacts with no longer existed.

Next up, Communist China -- which has placed a man in orbit and is working towards becoming the second nation to put a man on the moon -- kicked its anti-satellite program into high gear. They made at least one unannounced test of one system, destroying one of their own weather satellites and unleashing a storm of highly-destructive debris in Earth orbit.

For all the grand talk about the war-mongering US, so far all of our efforts towards militarizing space have been theoretical. We've discussed notions, kicked around theories, made some small-scale tests. The Chinese have actually carried out full-scale tests and proven their capabilities.

Perhaps we should try to stuff the genie back in the bottle and once again free the heavens of the threat of warfare, of bringing our conflicts to the stars. The real challenge will be in getting all the parties who can do so to oblige -- and in a verifiable way.

After all, all the mice in the world can vote to bell the cat -- but the cat has to agree to abide by the vote.



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Comments (33)

We are Siameowese, if you p... (Below threshold)
kim:

We are Siameowese, if you please.
=============

>Paul Hooson's piece is a b... (Below threshold)
Paul:

>Paul Hooson's piece is a bit on the hysterical side,

I knew that without reading it.

Yep - lets put that genie b... (Below threshold)

Yep - lets put that genie back in the bottle.

Want to know what a complet... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Want to know what a complete and total farking dumbass Hooson is????

Hooson:

But the American space efforts have so far been more frightening in their nature, and could certainly spur similar Russian and Chinese programs -- such as the "Rods From God" project in which a killer platform in space fires tungsten rods one foot in diameter and 25 feet long at objects on Earth at speeds up to 12,000 feet per second -

So... according to Hooson, this is an existing project. A project so misguided that Russians and Chinese will have to keep up....

Popular Science:

The concept of kinetic-energy weapons has been around ever since the RAND Corporation proposed placing rods on the tips of ICBMs in the 1950s; the satellite twist was popularized by sci-fi writer Jerry Pournelle. Though the Pentagon won't say how far along the research is, or even confirm that any efforts are underway, the concept persists.

So a science-FICTION writer came up with the concept, and according to Hooson, it's a Department of Defense "Project" by now.

Because after all, if a science fiction writer put it in a work of FICTION, that's proof that the U.S. military is developing it and that the kind, caring, loving Chinese and Russians would never pounce on the same idea...

Great, so now we have military punditry by comic book.

sigh.

Not to quibble [starting qu... (Below threshold)
Old_Dawg:

Not to quibble [starting quibble thread here], but in "The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress," the lunar colony was originally shipping grain that had been harvested on the moon to the earth. They changed this into an offensive weapon by substituting chunks of rock for the grain containers and aiming them to land close to or on top of key earth infrastructure and cities.
Your point on needing to control the high ground (near-earth orbit) is right on. Since the Chinese, in particular, will not abide by any treaties to de-militarize space, we need to avoid going down that road.

The question regarding the ... (Below threshold)
_Mike_:

The question regarding the militarization of space is not one of 'if', but rather, one of 'who first' and 'when' - to insist otherwise is to deny human nature and to demonstrate an ignorance of human history.

It's more than a bit ridicu... (Below threshold)
Robin Goodfellow:

It's more than a bit ridiculous to complain about the "militarization" of space. Space was militarized from the get go, and has always been used for military purposes. The first ever vehicles to enter sub-orbital space were V2 artillery rockets. Throughout most of the history of spaceflight the most common space vehicles in existence have been warhead entry vehicles for ICBMs. The vast majority of launch vehicles have been derivatives of nuclear warhead delivery systems.

Then, of course, you have the Soviet history of manned military space stations (Almaz) and anti-satellite systems, both of which began development and deployment in the late 1960s. Not to mention the failed Polyus orbital battle station.

It's a gross misunderstanding of history to believe that space has not been militarized to date.

I spent a couple of hour... (Below threshold)
wolfwalker:

I spent a couple of hours trying to track down a quote I'd read years ago, and utterly failed. ... The closest I can recall it was something like "if you do not control the peaks, you will surely die in the valleys."

I can't find it either, but I'd bet it's somebody's summation of several maxims from The Art of War by Sun-tzu.

There is a big difference b... (Below threshold)

There is a big difference between building defensive weapons to protect against ballistic missiles and offensive weaponry designed to incapacitate or destroy imaging and communication satellites aiding troops on the ground.

A science fiction writer ca... (Below threshold)
The Listkeeper:

A science fiction writer came up with an idea for a system to be used in space, and someone ran with it.

Hmmmm. Who'd have thought THAT could ever happen?

It is a sad state of affair... (Below threshold)

It is a sad state of affairs, but if we do not start putting defensive systems in orbit around the planet, other people will beat us to it, and probably replace the word "defensive" with "offensive".

Yeah, it is scary. Yeah, it is kind of pathetic that we are just now venturing into space, and already sullying the waters... ethers... whatever. Yeah, it will probably end up with another arms race.

The problem is, this time we are racing against a country that pays no heed to any treaties, nor has signed any of the vital treaties we had with the Soviets of yore. If we let them reach the first rung of the ladder before us, it is no longer a race. Then it just becomes a shooting gallery.

Would,nt you like to be the... (Below threshold)
spurwing plover:

Would,nt you like to be the first one to fly a X-WING fighter and blw away all those TIE- FIGHTERS?

Jay,could you please explai... (Below threshold)
cat:

Jay,could you please explain how on Earth the collapse of the Soviet Union made North Korea's pathetic attempts to build a nuclear weapon were supposed to have been more dangerous than the Soviet Union? Yes, yes, yes... Kim's a mad man. Bollocks. He's just corrupt and North Korea is so secretive that any made up story seems believable. And China's anti-satellite test? Do a little more checking. China was just doing what the United States and the Soviet Union had already done years ago. The test created a load of destructive debris, but since China has no intention of being left behind, it felt it needed to carry out one test. Big deal.

Oh yeah "cat", China, Ameri... (Below threshold)

Oh yeah "cat", China, America, whatever, we're all the same right ? They only slaughtered untold millions of their own ACCORDING TO A WELL MARKED GOVERNMENT PLAN. So really, what's the diff between us and them ? I mean hey, like we nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki, right ? And what about Dresden ? Mike moore and gary shefield got it right man, the U.S. aint nothin' but a colony of rich, white, greedy slave drivers. Here's to China layin' waste to the whole, miserable place...

A lot of people have died i... (Below threshold)
cat:

A lot of people have died in China over the years, pudge. No dispute on that. But could you elaborate a little on that "WELL MARKED GOVERNMENT PLAN"?

Well, not to put too fine a... (Below threshold)
E9RET:

Well, not to put too fine a point on it but someone once said that it is inevitable that man will go into space to stay. The only thing in doubt is whether English will be his native language.

ASATs are nothing new (sate... (Below threshold)
Publicus:

ASATs are nothing new (satellites that destroy other satellites). Both the U.S. and the Soviets had them.

I see nothing wrong with anti-satellite weapons or spy satellites.

I don't feel so comfortable about actual weapons in space...weapons designed to kill people. It seems to me that ICBM are more than destructive enough.

I also fear that increasing militarization of space will slow or stop the actual important space exploration...the kind that brings wonder, and reminds us that we all share the same small fragile planet.

THAT space is a force of nature that breaks down barriers between nations and promotes peace.

I would argue that destroyi... (Below threshold)
Matt:

I would argue that destroying sattelites with ground based weapons systems is stretching the concept of the militarizing space.

I do agree that space has already been militarized. We have military comms sattelites, spy satellites, etc. Vast majority of people launched into space, by any country have been military etc. Whether it is offensive or defensive in nature, space has been militarized. SDI anyone?

CAT,re: the millions... (Below threshold)

CAT,
re: the millions of Chinese that died at the hands of their own governments "WELL MARKED PLAN", have you ever heard of "The Great Leap Forward (into starvation)" ? Or the "Cultural Revolution", that guys like druggy beatle lennon and you are apparently so fond of ?

I know, I know, it's much easier to just say that "a lot of people died", isn't it ?

Yes pudge, oddly enough, I ... (Below threshold)
cat:

Yes pudge, oddly enough, I have heard of the Great Leap Forward. It was a total disaster and millions of people starved to death. That doesn't help me understand your capitalized "WELL MARKED PLAN". By the way, the GLF ended nearly 50 years ago and the Cultural Revolution ended 31 years ago.

CAT,The "WELL MARK... (Below threshold)

CAT,

The "WELL MARKED PLAN" part of it was, they wanted to destroy undesirables. Something that always happens when extreme liberalism rules the day, see: The Peace Democrats , Lord Chamberlain or even Americas "Cultural Revolution" of the sixties to check for proof that where leftist doctrine goes, so goes mass murder and human suffering of incomprehensible proportions.

As for you assertion that the Chinese stopped slaughtering their own, en masse, with gov assistance, uh, have you ever heard of Tiananmen Square ? Also, have you ever thought about the affect these systems of torture and mass annihilation have on a countries psyche ? Why do you think the islamo-facists kill and torture by the groups ? It works, you brickheaded, cheese-eating, surrender monkey.

What should we do about the... (Below threshold)

What should we do about the militarization of space?

Make sure we have dominance. Establish dominance early and securely.

Space is, after all, the ultimate high ground.

Now what to *do* with that dominance is ensure that space remains peaceful and open.

There is no sane reason to put yourself in the power of others just to prove your good intentions. (And maybe that's a girl thing, recognizing that allowing someone else control can be dangerous indeed.)

Strange arguments, pudge. T... (Below threshold)
cat:

Strange arguments, pudge. The Peace Democrats were conservatives, Chamberlain was a conservative, the old men who ordered the Beijing massacre were conservatives, Mao wasn't a conservative or liberal- he was a radical outside those labels. Maybe that's why I rarely have slightest idea what Americans are talking about when you use terms like "conservatives" and "liberals" - the words seem to mean whatever you want them to mean. All possibility of thought ends.

The Peace Dems were conserv... (Below threshold)

The Peace Dems were conservatives huh ? Hmm. The Civil Wars version of appeasers, the forunners of the modern day peacenix...Holy shit, I don't believe I'm talking to someone this stupid. It's like my friend, Doug the commie, who insists that all news media delivers there message with an overwhelmingly conservative slant, because there owned by rich guys. Yep, that rich old white man, ted turner, he's a regular Bill Buckley he is.

Jeesh, you f*c*ing libs truly are retarded. No wait, that's wrong. You intentionally blind yourselves like the abused woman with the black eyes and the sore ribs who says, "No occifer, I loves him!" What a waste of f*c*ing O2 you are. If you were true to your dictum, you'd all dawn burkahs and make a pilgrimage east and commence to puffin' on your heroes with the rusty knives. You guys really are the biggest waste of potential on this planet. Living in a place like America and stating the absolute height of pedantic, self hatred, born of nursery ryhme logic and complete and utter denial. How you can possibly read your own words and not vomit, I do not know. But I do now have some insight into pathological people: They're f*c*ing nutz!

You simply have no shame or sense of accountability to fall back on when someone is kind enough to try and straighten you out. You tools.

The American left are the absolute epitomy of the lemming, in human form. If we can't figure out a way to overcome such a pathetic bunch of nambla membershib card carrying, unimaginative, hate filled, sullen and cold hearted little people, then America doesn't deserve to go on existing.

Thank you for answer, pudge... (Below threshold)
cat:

Thank you for answer, pudge. I think it says more than I ever could. I'm a little puzzled about why you think that I am 1) an American, since I made it fairly clear that I am not: or 2) That I am a liberal (f*c*ing or otherwise) since I simply do not understand what you mean by the term.

On the Peace Democrats, perhaps as an American you should do a little more reading about your own history. You will probably find a lot of generalizations, and nuances as well. Good luck, you'll need it.

On the issue of "straightening me out" - well, I give up. I live in China. I don't know about everything in the world, but I do know that I know a lot more about China than you do. And unlike you, each year I light candles outside here in Beijing on the night of June 3 - June 4 in memory of the people who died here in 1989. Forgive me if I don't feel you have very much to tell me about what's going on here.

Thanx cat,Thanx fo... (Below threshold)

Thanx cat,

Thanx for the three paragraphs of sanctimonious nothingness. You say that you know everything about certain subjects, then you sustain it with ? That's another liberal, living in China, candle lighting, bullshit technique that commie informants such as yourself always use. Pretty weak mon, but also very liberal of you.

Once again the lib doesn't label himself correctly, but his actions do a great job of it for him. Selfrighteous f'ing asswipe.

Beautifully said, pudge. </... (Below threshold)
cat:

Beautifully said, pudge.

Jay, I have a great deal of... (Below threshold)

Jay, I have a great deal of respect for both you and your writing, but I feel that it was a bit unfair to label any portion of my feature as "hysterical". What in particular do you mean?

I calmly noted that there has been decades of international cooperation in space by all the leading nations as well as limitations on space weapons limited to intelligence gathering, communications and similar spy activity. But both China and the U.S. seem to want to actually station offensive weapons in space that can fire objects at Earth targets or at other satellites.

My conclusion is that the citizens of the world will have to decide if a space weaponry arms limitation treaty of some type needs to be put in effect and prevent the weaponization of space. I left it as an open question for anyone to post a comment in favor of the weaponization of space or those against. It's a very fair question whether you want the nations of the world orbiting nuclear weapons, laser beams or other devices over your children's grade school, community church or your home 24 hours a day. Do you want 100's, 1,000's or 10,000 of weapons orbiting in space over your home someday by all the leading nations? Or should space remain a peaceful area of mutual scientic cooperation by the nations of the world?

I'm pleased to offer intelligent thought provoking pieces of journalism over at Wizbang Blue and will continue to do so.

The only area where I like being a real daredevil is in driving a neck-snapping motor scooter through congested city traffic which rates as dangerous and thrilling enough to be another X Games or Extreme sport event. My 18 assorted accident injuries from last week's 52nd birthday serious crash from a sudden mechanical failure are healing a little too slow to suit me. But my writing will always remain calm compared to this wild daredevil side. You can trust that. No "hysteria" behind the "sissy safe" keys of a typewriter for this risk taker. I get my kicks on two wheels, not on a computer keyboard.

Hey Hoosie if you want some... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

Hey Hoosie if you want someone to see or read your articles, you might want to post them somewhere else beside over at "bluie". LOL :)

Jhow66, my comments were to... (Below threshold)

Jhow66, my comments were to Jay. Is your name Jay? Or don't you know how to read either, real smart guy?

Paul, your blaming the Bush... (Below threshold)

Paul, your blaming the Bush adminstration was a bit much, but overall it was a very thought-provoking piece. The kind of thing that, if you keep it up, might garner you an invitation to join a more widely-read blog -- one where you might not fit in as well ideologically, but a bit more challenging and higher-profile.

Jhow, while I generally appreciate people standing up for me, in this case it really isn't needed. Or, for that matter, appreciated. Paul and I are developing our own rapport, and it doesn't need anyone trying to "help."

J.

I might be the only one say... (Below threshold)

I might be the only one saying it, but a treaty is only as good as the ability to enforce it. Force is weaponry, usually. So if everyone agrees that we shouldn't have weapons in space and signs a nice agreement saying so and no one puts any weapons up there there will be no enforcement ability if someone else decides "screw it" and hides guns and SFinal death rays in their communications sats and space stations.

And one of the most financially likely uses for space for energy production requires the ability to shoot a nice SFinal death ray down to the earth to a nice energy collection node... change the way it's pointing and... well, there you go.

Turning something not meant to be a weapon into a weapon isn't that hard either... what goes up can come down and what can come down can come down in a devistating manner.

Jay, I deeply appreciate yo... (Below threshold)

Jay, I deeply appreciate your constructive comments on how to improve my writing style. I certainly strive to improve my content, and your comments are very helpful. Thank you.




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