Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Militarization of Space: aka El Farce Supreme

Ashley Tellis is one of those people who has an inimitable knack for making informatively clarifying points which often illuminate particular aspects of issues that are vital to the United States' interests. That said, his recent article in the WSJ on the potentiality of a space arms race, can only be described as a penumbra on rational foreign policy making and diplomacy.
The introduction of weapons in space would be deleterious to global security. But the treaty unfurled by Messrs. Lavrov and Li would neither effectively prohibit their deployment, nor conclusively annul the threat of force against space objects. It would only produce the illusion of security, while doing nothing to eliminate the counterspace capabilities currently present in many countries, especially China.
So in the first sentence we have a suspicious admonition that weapons in space would be detrimental to global security (which certainly warrants a 'no shit sherlock'). Then Tellis explains why the US found the recently proposed treaty unappealing: the US is more concerned about the counterspace capabilities that states such as China and Russia wields, than it is with these two states' fears of the US expanding its military dominance--which the US undisputedly has in the realms of land, air, and sea--to the final dimension: space.

The biggest deficiency in the Russian-Chinese draft treaty is that it focuses on the wrong threat: weapons in space. There aren't any today, nor are there likely to be any in the immediate future. The threat to space assets is rather from weapons on earth -- the land- and sea-based kinetic, directed-energy and electromagnetic attack systems. The treaty entirely ignores these.
Now we have two conclusions--the deleterious nature of weaponizing space with regards to the global security environment and the lack thereof of weapons in space today and, logic permitting, ever--which seems to warrant my proposal: sign the damn treaty if it makes the Chinese and Russians happy (since based on our conclusions we have nothing to lose, besides ink) and by doing so, unless I am too young and naive to understand international dealings, effectively decrease their need for and development of counterspace capabilities by giving them their desired 'illusion of security'.

Not signing the treaty simply sends the message that the United States intends to keep the option of weaponizing space open. If that, indeed, is not our intent, than I see no need to send false signals. What can we hope to achieve with this stick, which pokes not only dangerously, but provocatively at the sleeping monster of potential disaster?

1 comment:

AdamK said...

I'm not sure if Tellis is a reader of this blog, but I just recently visited the Carnegie Endowment web page and noticed the headline was Tellis' article which I referenced in the post above, but,accompanying that was a paper which roughly responds to my proposal: basically, I'm wrong.,zgp&proj=znpp,zsa

The key conclusions of the paper are:

• China’s strategists have concluded that efforts to defeat U.S. military power should not aim its capacity to deliver overwhelming conventional firepower from long distances, but instead target its weakest links, namely its space-based capabilities and their related ground installations.

• China is highly unlikely to abandon its counterspace program, as doing so would condemn its armed forces to inevitable defeat against U.S. power. Consequently, it will not enter into any arms-control regime that would further accentuate its competitors’ military advantages.

• The U.S. domination of space—which underwrites both its civilian and military advantages—is at risk, and therefore necessitates a series of remedial investments.

• The growing Chinese capability for space warfare implies that a major conflict in the Taiwan Strait would entail serious deterrence and crisis instabilities.

So if Tellis' assessment is correct China has no intention of giving up its space denial capabilities, because they are the only effective military means it has to compete successfully (or at least more so than without) in an engagement with US military power.

I recommend reading the paper. It's, not surprisingly, much more convincing than the WSJ article.