Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Missile-Defense Goals Encompass Space ; Defense Chief Would Expand Plan beyond Earth, Cites Threat of a 'Space Pearl Harbor.'

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Missile-Defense Goals Encompass Space ; Defense Chief Would Expand Plan beyond Earth, Cites Threat of a 'Space Pearl Harbor.'

Article excerpt

The Bush administration's push for a missile-defense capability, though couched in the language of reducing the threat of nuclear war or defending against a lesser attack by a "rogue state" such as North Korea or Iraq, is part of a much broader interest in holding the high ground of military superiority in space.

A congressionally mandated commission headed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently warned of a "space Pearl Harbor" in which US satellites and other assets could be disabled or destroyed, severely harming the nation's ability to gather military intelligence and direct its forces on land and sea.

It's a "virtual certainty," the Rumsfeld group asserted, that war will be fought in space one day, just as it has been on land, at sea, and in the air. "Given this virtual certainty," the commission reported, "the US must develop the means both to deter and to defend against hostile acts in and from space. This will require superior space capabilities."

The long-range plan of the US Space Command states that "In 2020, if not sooner, adversaries will essentially share the high ground of space with the United States and its allies." As a result, "the United States must be prepared to ensure our space advantage over an enemy."

Moves by Russia, China

Proponents of this view point out that earlier this year Russia reorganized its armed forces to create a new military service for space warfare. Also, China is developing what it calls a "parasite satellite" that would attach itself to and disable other satellites.

Among its recommendations, the Rumsfeld group said the president should "have the option to deploy weapons in space to deter threats to, and ... defend against attacks on, US interests."

Does this represent a "military revolution," as some experts put it, akin to aircraft-carrier warfare and blitzkrieg? Or is it merely a rehashing of Ronald Reagan's 1983 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), dubbed "star wars" by critics, with its vision of space-based lasers blasting enemy warheads? Would it prompt a new arms race in space? Is it technologically feasible? Is it affordable?

Rumsfeld's overall military review, expected in another month or so, will reveal more details. But there is no doubt that he, and other senior administration officials, see the possibilities and perhaps the necessity of space-based military systems.

Pentagon analyst Andrew Marshall, one of the main figures in the Rumsfeld review, sees the need to defend against enemy missiles in space. He was one of the key witnesses before an earlier commission - also headed by Rumsfeld - established by Congress in 1997 to assess ballistic missile threats to the US.

While missile-defense research and testing has moved slowly and somewhat fitfully over the 18 years since Mr. Reagan launched SDI, advances have been made. …

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