The Emergence of Cooperative Restraint
Scientific information to support a cooperative agreement to limit electromagnetic pulse (EMP) radiation in space, either in the context of general nuclear test-ban negotiations or separately, had emerged by the late summer of 1962. Other factors seemed to support the notion that putting weapons of mass destruction into space and fighting over bases on the Moon would be dangerous new steps in the arms race. Yet space cooperation and military restraint remained blocked by a number of factors. First, no arms control between the two sides had ever taken place. Second, strong military-technological forces continued to push a seemingly inevitable process of testing and development of both nuclear and other systems for space. And, third, the exact mechanism through which this new knowledge of EMP’s harmful effects in space might be put into action remained murky. Instead, traditional, military-led patterns of “business as usual” continued even during the Cuban Missile Crisis, when both sides tested nuclear weapons in orbit and at high altitudes, risking nuclear war. Given this situation, it seemed unlikely that anything good might follow this very dangerous event. As physicist Sidney Drell (who participated in U.S. military space efforts at the time) and Steven Weber observe regarding this period, “The United States and the USSR appeared to be poised on the brink of an arms race in space.”1 In fact, for some supporters of a greater military role in space, this arms race was not happening fast enough and the United States was in danger of losing it.2
1 See the chapter by Weber and Drell in Alexander L. George, Philip J. Farley, and Alexander Dallin, eds., U.S.-Soviet Security Cooperation: Achievements, Failures, Lessons (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), p. 381.
2 As author and space enthusiast Erik Bergaust wrote in a scathing critique of U.S. space activities under Kennedy and Johnson’s supervision: “The Kennedy Administration’s failure to build a