Rushing to Weaponize the Final Frontier

By Hitchens, Theresa | Arms Control Today, September 2001 | Go to article overview

Rushing to Weaponize the Final Frontier


Hitchens, Theresa, Arms Control Today


The military advantages of the United States being the first country to place weapons in space could be easily out-- weighed by the long-- term political and security costs.

For nearly 40 years, there has been a gentlemen's agreement among the world's space-faring nations to refrain from putting weapons in space. This unspoken pact to protect space for "peaceful uses" has penetrated the international psyche so deeply that most countries, including the two Cold War rivals, have also refrained from developing weapons that could shoot down satellites from the ground, air, or sea.

That may well be about to change.

The United States, the number one space power, is on the verge of a set of decisions that could make it the first to place weapons in orbit. This would be a momentous move, holding the potential for a phase shift in global politics and international relations. It could well go down as one of the major historical events of the 21st century.

It is unclear, however, whether those in the military and the administration of President George W. Bush who are pushing for aggressive U.S. moves to develop and field anti-satellite and spaced-based weaponry have clearly and completely explored the far-reaching political, commercial, and national security ramifications such a move could have.

In the absence of such an in-depth, detailed, and public review-that is, including inputs from Congress, academia, and industry, and involving unclassified as well as classified assessments-of the enormous impact of creating a new battlefield in space, it would be a serious mistake for President Bush to allow the Pentagon's space-warfare proponents to continue their march to orbit. There is too much at stake, for both the United States and the rest of the world.

A New Space Policy?

Although there has been a good deal of internal debate within the military, particularly the Air Force, about the issue of space-based weaponry, overall national security policy regarding space has changed little over the past several decades.

The National Space Policy document released by the White House in September 1996 provides the current national guidance. That document, and its interpretation by the Clinton administration, is consistent with U.S. policy ever since the original space race of the late 1950s and 1960s: continue the restraint against putting weapons in orbit, but allow the military to explore technologies and capabilities as both a deterrent and a hedge against potential developments by hostile countries.

This U.S. policy, although encouraging research and development, has amounted to a de facto prohibition on the deployment of space-based weapons. In fact, despite several eras of experimentation, both the United States and Russia have also rejected the deployment of ground-, sea-, and air-based anti-satellite weapons (ASATs). In other words, weaponization of space-whether through the introduction of orbiting weapons or through direct targeting of satellites-- has been and continues to be taboo.

This restraint has occurred despite the fact that there are no international or bilateral treaties banning weapons in space, although there are several treaties limiting some space-based military activities. The 1967 Outer Space Treaty proscribes putting weapons of mass destruction into space or on the moon or other celestial bodies. The 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty also prohibited nuclear explosions in space. The 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty between the United States and Soviet Union forbids development, testing, or deployment of space-based missile defense systems and also forbids "tampering" with the other side's "national technical means" (i.e., spy satellites).

None of these treaties outright ban space-based weapons or even ASATs aimed at satellites other than spy satellites. In fact, the U.S. government has never been willing to formally pledge a ban on weapons in space, much less on ASATs. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Rushing to Weaponize the Final Frontier
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.