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Opinion

August 14, 2018
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Turning space into a battleground

Opinion

August 14, 2018

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After polluting rivers, poisoning seas, wrecking oceans, burdening the landmass with destructive weapons, and ruining the natural beauty of this world, we are now all set to trigger a senseless war in space as well.

The recent announcement about the Trump administration’s plans to establish of a space force by 2020 is yet another folly that flies in the face of our claims of being rational, prescient and sagacious.

According to media reports, the space force will serve as the sixth military service. Announcing the plan at the Pentagon in Washington DC on August 9, US Vice-President Mike Pence said that in order to prepare for the new force, the Trump administration aims to put together an elite squad of service members to fight wars in space. This squad will be known as the Space Operations Force and will draw members from all parts of the military, such as the existing special forces.

The US vice-president said that the force is required to ensure America’s dominance in space amid heightened competition and threats from China and Russia. Pence asserted that while space was once peaceful and uncontested, it is now crowded and adversarial.

This statement clearly indicates that the US wants complete dominance in space and is ready to take any risk to achieve it. It seems that the US presidential megalomania appears to have reached new heights. After triggering a trade war with China and other states, Donald Trump is bent on following another disastrous path that will not only affect the sole superpower but has the potential to push the world towards a conflagration. The primary aim of the plan suggests that Washington wants a confrontation with Russia and China in outer space.

Pence drew attention to the altruistic aims of the US by claiming that “America will always seek peace, in space as on earth, but history proves that peace only comes through strength. And in the realm of outer space, the US space force will be that strength in the years ahead”.

This ‘double speak’ needs to be scrutinised. According to Bloomberg, “the US military uses space-based technology for navigation, reconnaissance, weather forecasting, intelligence collection, communications, command and control, precision targeting, and much else. Its reliance on satellite-guided munitions has increased with each new conflict in recent years”. So, instead of bringing any peace, this lust for power and race for dominance will exacerbate tension between the major powers, raising the spectre of a dangerous confrontation.

Many have already billed the space force as a dumb idea, describing it as an expensive undertaking. The US has already allocated $716 billion for its military budget, which is 17 percent of America’s federal budget of $4 trillion. But even then, this race to dominate space appears to have no limit. Many fear that the major powers won’t stop after landing on one planet in outer space and establishing their domination on it. Their insatiable greed for hegemony will prompt them to conquer more parts of space, which is extremely expensive.

Nasa estimates that it will cost $450 billion to land the first humans on Mars by the late 2030s or the early 2040s. History has proved that a large amount of space research is related to military purposes. Some have argued that it is a dangerous idea to turn space into a battleground. This form of battle will not only affect a few superpowers, but will also have catastrophic consequences for the entire world.

Such mammoth spending for wars, conflicts, dominance and hegemony raises questions about the claim that ‘the supreme creatures of God’ have been gifted with rationality and intelligence. What rationale can we offer for the whopping $1,700 billion that is being spent on global arms and military expenditure when one-third of world’s population or, according to some statistics, more than half of the planet’s poor lack adequate facilities.

What cogent argument can we offer for the hike in the military budgets of EU states that will eventually help arms companies and defence industries pocket around $300 billion? A tiny portion of this rise may be enough to end homelessness that is rising everywhere in Europe, except Finland. For instance, the UK – which had the fifth largest military budget in 2016 with GBP 35.3 billion – needs only GBP 10 billion to end homelessness by building 100,000 houses on an annual basis for 15 years.

It is ironic that the global health spending for over six billion people will be $18.28 trillion by 2040 while over 80 million personnel of the armed forces across the world (20.5 million regular soldier, 49.8 million reservists and seven million serving in paramilitary units, according to statistics from 2009) and a few defence-related industries are likely to enjoy close to over $2 trillion. India, where more than 100,000 peasants have committed suicide over the years owing to extreme poverty, will be spending around $200 billion on defence by 2050. But it has little to offer the 243 million people who are living below the poverty line.

It seems that a huge amount of spending on defence and the killings of millions of people wasn’t enough for the warmongers sitting in the power corridors of powerful countries. They are now taking this possible conflict to new heights. According to a report in The Atlantic by Thomas Gonzales Roberts: “While agreements for how to operate in other international domains, like the open sea, airspace, and even cyberspace, have already been established, the major space powers – the United States, Russia, and China – have not agreed upon a rulebook outlining what constitutes bad behavior in space”.

The report adds that: “Although there has never been a military conflict in space, the history of human activity above our atmosphere is not entirely benign. In 1962, the United States detonated a 1.4 megaton nuclear weapon 250 miles above the Earth’s surface. The blast destroyed approximately one third of satellites in orbit and poisoned the most used region of space with radiation that lasted for years.

“Although the United States, Russia, and others soon agreed to a treaty to prevent another nuclear test in space, China and North Korea never signed it. In 2007, China tested an anti-satellite weapon, a conventionally-armed missile designed to target and destroy a satellite in orbit. In the process, it annihilated an old Chinese weather satellite and created high-velocity shrapnel that still threatens other satellites”.

It is widely believed that the US has more to lose because almost half of all operational satellites are owned and operated by the US government or American commercial companies. Instead of establishing norms, the US is creating a force that is likely to heighten tension between the three big military powers in the world. From American GPS satellite systems to satellite communications for troop deployment, we need space technology for our day-to-day needs. But by deciding to make a space force, Washington is likely to force other major powers to follow suit. For humanity at large, this is tantamount to digging its own grave. This could only be described as nothing more than a great folly – or, perhaps, the greatest and most dangerous folly.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]

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