Renewed U.S. Space Nationalism
The period from 2001 to 2008 brought a fundamental challenge to the norms of space security established and followed since the early 1960s. In many respects, the rhetoric and direction turned back to the Reagan administration, but in other respects it turned back to 1950s’ assumptions about space’s weaponization. Changes in U.S. policy caused this confrontation with existing approaches: the result of a dramatic shift in power and perspective in the White House and single-party control over both houses of Congress. The November 2000 presidential election proved to be among the more controversial in American history. The Supreme Court ended a contentious recount in the last state still in play (Florida), and a team dominated by leading neoconservative thinkers (some of them former officials) entered office with a self-perceived mandate for dramatic change. In space, they identified shortcomings of simultaneous U.S. dependence and vulnerability. Instead of continuing Clinton-era and Cold War space security policies and cooperation with Russia, the George W. Bush administration promoted concepts of space security aimed largely at unilateral military means, stating that the Cold War had ended and that U.S. security could no longer be held hostage to Moscow or the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. It also pointed at potential future threats to its space assets. Not surprisingly, this perspective pitted U.S. policies directly against the attitudes of nearly all other states active in space security discussions—and particularly those of the two leading players, Russia and China. These countries continued to promote new forms of space arms control via restraint-based approaches, although with no real progress. By the end of this period, both sides would begin brandishing renewed space weapons options.
The Bush administration endured one of the most difficult first years of any president in office. The terrorist attacks in the United States on September 11,