Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Death from Above 

Damn you, Bill Clinton! Thanks to your eight-year interregnum of peace, prosperity and international cooperation, we may have missed out on our one real shot at complete global hegemony:
Russia will develop missiles impervious to any defense, Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said Tuesday in an apparent allusion to the nascent U.S. missile defense system.

A year ago, President Vladimir Putin said Russia could build unrivaled new strategic weapons, and in November he said it is developing a new nuclear missile system unlike any weapon other countries have or could come up with in the near future . . . .

"Russia will ... remain a major nuclear power," Ivanov said, according to Interfax. "But we will not bake missiles like pies. Their quantity should be such that it allows for the provision of our own security in any potential development of the international situation."

Russia opposed Washington's withdrawal in 2002 from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in order to deploy a national missile defense shield, saying the 30-year-old U.S.-Soviet pact was a key element of international security.

Russian officials subsequently tempered their criticism. Putin said it was a "mistake" that would hurt global security but not threaten Russia.
From a Jan. 25 speech by Noam Chomsky before the members of the International Relations Center in Santa Fe:
There's case after case where a nuclear war was prevented almost by a miracle. And the threat is increasing as a consequence of policies that the administration is very consciously pursuing.

U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld understands perfectly well that these policies are increasing the threat of destruction. As you know, it's not a high-probability event, but if a low-probability event keeps happening over and over, there's a high probability that sooner or later it will take place . . . .

The Strategic Command report asks how we should reconstruct our nuclear and other forces for the post-Cold War period. And the conclusions are that we have to rely primarily on nuclear weapons because unlike other weapons of mass destruction, such as chemical and biological, the effects of nuclear weapons are immediate, devastating, overwhelming – not only destructive but terrifying. So they have to be the core of what's called deterrence.

Everything means the opposite of what it says. Deterrence means our offensive stance should primarily be based on nuclear weapons because they're so destructive and terrifying. And furthermore just the possession of massive nuclear forces casts a shadow over any international conflict, like people are frightened of us because we have this overwhelming force . . . .

If you read the
vision for 2020 published by the Space Administration, it talks about how the new frontier is space – and that we have to take control of space for military purposes and make sure that we have no competitors. That means the space-based instruments of sudden mass destruction.

There was an outer space treaty in 1967, which doesn't have any teeth in it but it does call for preserving space for peaceful purposes. And there have been efforts at the U.N. General Assembly Disarmament Committee to strengthen it. But they've been blocked unilaterally by the United States. The United States alone refuses to vote for the General Assembly resolution, and it's been tied up since the year 2000. The Chinese are the ones who are pushing to expand it. That's not reported in the United States. In the year 2000 it was only reported in one newspaper, a small newspaper in Utah . . . .

When the Bush administration took over they just made it more extreme. They moved from the Clinton doctrine of control of space to what they call ownership of space, meaning – their words – "instant engagement anywhere" or unannounced destruction of any place on earth.
Mr. Chomsky is recapitulating an argument put forth in much greater detail by Karl Grossman in the excellent pamphlet Weapons in Space (Seven Stories Press, 2000). Mike Moore's 2000 article from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists covers some of the same turf:
"Global Engagement is the combination of global surveillance of the Earth (see anything, any time), worldwide missile defense, and the potential ability to apply force from space. . . . For example, a force application system based in space could be available for strategic attack."

Space Command envisions an elaborate network of spy, weather, missile-defense, and command-and-control satellites operated by the United States and its allies, which will enable it and its friends to monitor threats and, if necessary, direct air, terrestrial, and naval forces in the battlespace below. In "real time," of course.

But Space Command also suggests that the United States acquire the ability to "hold at risk a finite number of high value earth targets with near instantaneous force application from space."

That's jarring. Article IV of the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, of which the United States was the prime mover, says that parties to the treaty cannot "place in orbit around the earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner."

But that was then and now is now. In the 1960s, nations feared nuclear weapons in space, which were clearly weapons of mass destruction. In contrast, Space Command speaks of the "surgical application of force," weapons that could take out a building or a bunker or a weapon of mass destruction--"high value" targets in military-speak. These kinds of precision weapons are--at least arguably--not covered by the Outer Space Treaty.

Ballistic missiles armed with conventional warheads, space planes, lasers, and directed-energy weapons are the stuff of which Space Command's dreams are made. Consider space planes, which military analyst William M. Arkin wrote about in the September/October 1999 issue of the Bulletin. They would be similar to today's civilian space shuttle but far more advanced. They might, for instance, carry ballistic missiles with conventional high explosives. Or they might carry hypersonic "common aero vehicles" capable of evading ballistic missile defenses and hitting targets with extraordinary accuracy anywhere in the world. They, too, would be armed with conventional high explosives.
All of which reinforces our longstanding conviction that "missile defense" is more than an unconscionably expensive boondoggle. It is also the fig leaf behind which the U.S. can fund, research and deploy space-based offensive weaponry:

The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command has awarded Northrop Grumman Corporation a follow-on contract for operations and maintenance of lasers and facility-support systems used to test the effects of lasers against physical threats . . . .

The MIRACL is the free world's first megawatt-class, continuous wave, deuterium fluoride chemical laser. The Sea-Lite beam director is a stabilized, 1.8-meter diameter, megawatt-class, high-power, laser beam-expanding telescope capable of handling close-in tactical targeting scenarios.

The vacuum test system consists of two major subsystems that allow laser effects and space system testing in a vacuum environment. The system is connected to the MIRACL laser through a series of optics and a 1,000-feet-long laser beam pipe.

In addition to laser tests, the chamber can be used for a range of high-altitude space systems testing, such as payloads and payload fairings and the testing of astronomical instruments.

And, just because we always like to leave you laughing:
US defense giant Northrop Grumman agreed to pay 62 million dollars to resolve allegations of overcharging the government in a contract for the B-2 Spirit "stealth" bomber, officials said Tuesday.

The company was accused of fraudulently accounting for materials purportedly used in multiple defense contracts and inflating the costs of a radar jamming device for the plane under an Air Force contract . . . .

"Government partnerships with defense contractors require honesty and candor to provide the best military equipment at the most efficient price," said US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois, where the case was filed.

"This settlement shows that the government will pursue its legal remedies when that trust is violated. Contractors must know that government business is not a blank check."
The two stories directly above -- Northrop Grumman fined $62 million for defrauding government, Northrop Grumman wins space-laser contract -- share a single dateline: March 1, 2005.

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