Hegemony or Survival Part Two


European observers find it "a paradox" that "a country willing to spend more

than $100bn on an unproven project to blow up incoming nuclear warheads as they

enter the atmosphere would opt not to pay less than a thousandth of that amount

to help prevent plutonium falling into the hands of `rogue states’," while

knowing full well that "any `rogue bomb’ is far more likely to arrive in a

suitcase or by truck or boat than in a conspicuously launched missile that has a

return address clearly marked on it" (Julian Borger, Guardian Weekly, May 24).

The other current choices that enhance the threat to survival seem, on the

surface, equally paradoxical. The paradox is resolved when the values of

hegemony and survival are properly ranked, and other advantages of military

programs to which we return are factored in.


Vijay Prashad pointed out in his recent commentary on SDI and BMD (June 18), the

primary issue is not BMD but control of space, also a bipartisan program. These

crucial facts reached general public awareness with Secretary of Defense Donald

Rumsfeld’s announcement of overhaul of the Pentagon’s space programs, "sharply

increasing the importance of outer space in strategic planning." The new plans

call for "developing weapons systems for outer space" a "power projection" from

space, which means "putting offensive weapons into space" (NYT, May 8; Christian

Science Monitor, May 3). The plans were outlined in the report of the second

Rumsfeld panel, released in January (the first, in October 1998, warned of

missile attack threats, apparently influencing Clinton’s decision to accelerate

BMD programs). The report of the second panel concludes that space warfare is "a

virtual certainty," and calls for the development of anti-satellite weapons (ASATs)

(in violation of the 1972 ABM treaty) and placing weapons in space (in violation

of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty).

Reviewing these plans in Foreign Affairs (May 2001), Michael Krepon, former

President of the Henry Stimson Center, notes that they contain an internal

contradiction: ASATs are far easier to develop than BMD, and an adversary’s

ASATs will nullify any BMD program by disabling the satellites on which it

relies. The contradiction can be overcome only "by utterly dominating space in

the ways suggested by the Rumsfeld report," with offensive weapons and an

escalating arms race in space as others inevitably take countermeasures. He

recommends, instead, strengthening the existing treaties — which have been

observed, he notes. That would make good sense if the goal were survival rather

than hegemony.


US Space Command holds that "In the future, being able to attack terrestrial

targets from space may be critical to national defense. U.S. Space Command

therefore is actively identifying potential roles, missions, and payloads for

this probable new field of battle." The basic rationale was explained in its

brochure "Vision for 2020." The primary goal is announced prominently on the

front cover: "dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect

US interests and investment." This is the next phase of the historic task of

military forces. "During the westward expansion of the continental United

States, military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our wagon trains,

settlements, and railroads" — acting solely in self-defense, we are to

understand, perhaps pursuing the well-intentioned but failed efforts "to lead,

guide and help Native Americans [among others] toward the right side of history"

(Bacevich), America’s historic mission for the world. And "nations built navies

to protect and enhance their commercial interests." The next logical step is

space forces to protect "U.S. National Interests [military and commercial] and

Investments." The US role in space should be comparable to that of "navies

protecting sea commerce," though now with a sole hegemon, far more overwhelming

than the British Navy in centuries past.


Space Command is of course aware of Krepon’s dilemma, and plans to overcome it

by "Full Spectrum Dominance": overwhelming military dominance on land, sea, and

air as well as space, so that the US will be "preeminent in any form of

conflict," in peace or war. The need for such dominance will mount as a result

of the increasing "globalization of the economy," which is expected to bring

about "a widening between `haves’ and `have-nots’," an assessment shared by US

intelligence in its projections for 2015 (contrary to the underlying economic

theories, but in accord with reality). The widening divide may lead to unrest

among the have-nots, which the US must be ready to control by "using space

systems and planning for precision strike from space" as a "counter to the

worldwide proliferation of WMD" by unruly elements — a predictable consequence

of the recommended programs, just as the "widening divide" is an anticipated

consequence of the preferred form of "globalization."


Space Command could have extended its analogy to "navies protecting sea

commerce" and the military "defending" expanding interests. Navies, and the

military generally, have played a prominent role in technological and industrial

development throughout the modern era. Also to corporate consolidation: the

noted pacifist Andrew Carnegie relied heavily on naval contracts in building the

first $1 billion corporation, US Steel. Militarization of space offers similar

opportunities for the current era. "In terms of international technological

potential," economic historian Clive Trebilcock writes, "the ability to produce

the largest gunmountings around 1910 was roughly equivalent to the ability to

manufacture space vehicles around 1980." The task of constructing huge machines

to fire projectiles from a moving platform at a moving target was one of the

most complex engineering problems of the day, leading to major advances in

metallurgy, electronics, machine tools and manufacturing processes. Quick-firing

guns and advanced rifle production also posed challenging tasks for engineering

and manufacture, which could be undertaken by "civilian" industry thanks to

government contracts, which "played a vital part in removing the risk barriers

from mass production" and preliminary research and development (R&D). The

results were transferred directly to the automotive and other major modern

industries. These developments a century ago were a large step forward from

earlier stages, when the "American system of Manufactures" astounded the world,

based on 40 years of investment and R&D in the US Ordnance Department at the

Springfield Armory and elsewhere, laying the basis for "a world revolution in

mass production." Earlier, advances in guncasting from the mid-18th century laid

the basis for iron production and use of steam engines, and were "instrumental

in facilitating the rise of large-scale industry, indeed in creating the factory

system." The same factors persisted after World War II, but with a qualitative

leap forward, this time primarily in the US, as the military provided a cover

for creation of the core parts of the modern high tech economy. None of the

beneficiaries want to see the closing of what Trebilcock calls "the military

bank, spending through the public purse, [which] has proved a massive paymaster

of scientific development," technological and industrial as well.

Promoting advanced industry has been a leading objective of military planning

since World War II, when it was recognized by business leaders that high-tech

industry could not survive in a competitive "free enterprise" economy and that

"the government is their only possible savior" (Fortune, Business Week).

Reagan’s SDI was peddled to the business world on these grounds. Maintaining

"the defense industrial base" — that is, high-tech industry — was one of the

factors brought to congressional attention by President Bush when he called for

maintaining the Pentagon budget immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall

had eliminated the Russian pretext. Militarization of space is a natural next

step, which will be propelled further by the anticipated arms race. Others too

are well aware of its economic potential. Retreating from his earlier critical

stance, German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder stated in March that Germany would

have a "vital economic interest" in developing BMD technology, and must be sure

that "we are not excluded" from technological and scientific work in the field.

Participation in BMD programs could strengthen domestic industrial bases

generally in Europe, it is expected (see Defense Monitor, March 2001).


such reasons, the US has recently refused to join the rest of the world in

reaffirming the Outer Space Treaty (joined in 1999 and 2000 by Israel, in 2000

by Micronesia), and has blocked negotations at the UN Conference on Disarmament

since its current sessions opened in January. China and Russia have called for

demilitarization of space; Russia proposed further moves, including reduction of

warheads to 1500 and creation of nuclear-free zones. "The U.S. remains the only

one of the 66 member states to oppose launching formal negotiations on outer

space," Reuters reported in February; also reported in the Deseret News (Salt

Lake City), in virtually the only coverage of the Conference in the US media. On

June 7, China again called for banning of weapons in outer space, but the US

refused, having "consistently blocked the start of negotiations in the UN

disarmament conference on preventing an arms race in outer space" (Financial

Times, June 8).

Again, that makes good sense if hegemony, with its short-term benefits to elite

interests, is ranked above survival in the scale of operative values.



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