The Geopolitics and Institutions
of Satellite Communications
Robert J. Oslund
The George Washington University
The development of international organizations has been, in the main, a response to the need arising from international intercourse rather than the philosophical appeal of the notion of world government.
—D. W. Bowett (1963)
Communications satellite technology became an enabler of globalism four decades ago when technology made possible the establishment of the first truly multinational global commercial entity of any sort—Intelsat—by bringing together, around the same table, countries of different political persuasions, economic systems, cultures, and levels of development to own and operate a worldwide satellite system. Other competing global, regional, and domestic communications satellite systems have since joined Intelsat as enablers of the globalization process by opening up information links to virtually every national capital and market in the world (see Nye & Donahue, 2000).
Satellite communications have been—and remain—a powerful force in reshaping and integrating our world in new and unforeseen ways. In turn, these have—and are—requiring a redefinition of the concepts of global trade, global competition, global power, and global governance along the way.
To understand just how powerful of a force the tetherless technology has become, one need only turn back the calendar one century when imperialism, the antithesis of globalism, was the international norm, and the British were nearing their apogee as an imperialist power. The “Union Jack” was prominent in a worldwide
The views expressed herein, unless indicated otherwise, are solely the views of the author.