THE VITAL FORCE

One ought to be grateful to the University of Kentucky Press for publishing Dr. Steven Lambakis’ On the Edge of Earth – The Future of American Space Power (Lexington, 2001, 365 pages). It is one of the most important geopolitical books published in later years. The fact that it appeared just before September 11, 2001, does not lessen the importance of this work

America is fighting a global war against international terrorism in alliance with much of the civilized world. A war against one of the support regimes of this terrorism, Iraq, started in 2003. One can only hope that these wars do not halt the building of American space power. There are great geopolitical risks involved in attacks on American satellites and PRC has publicly several times declared that it is seeking antisatellite weapons. In addition it is fighting a cyberwar against the United States and the European Union.

Dr. Lambakis correctly points out that GPS satellites, for instance, are of great value to United States warfare capability. Harm to these satellites would lessen American military strength. Space is already militarized and what seems now inevitable is force projection from space. Satellites can by used for much besides communication. They are present over battle areas that are difficult to deny. They do so repeatedly and frequently, so that force application using them would have both a strategical and tactical effectiveness. The force can be applied anywhere rapidly, with minimal risks to U.S. forces, and at all levels of conflict. Satellites move at a speed of 25,000 mph, thus with the advantage of enjoying complete surprise.

So why not use the satellites? The next generation of bombers, in the eyes of many analysts, seems to offer planes that can fly at supersonic (Mach 1 to Mach 5) or hypersonic (Mach 5 to Mach 25) speeds. They would make the entire world reachable for attack from any point and completely reshape the geography of surface warfare. But developing these bombers would be costly, so why not do it from space?

The next step could be the space maneuver vehicle (SMV). It would be able to deliver lethal and nonlethal power while a suborbital space operations vehicle (SOV) would be capable of striking targets anywhere on Earth in less than sixty minutes. Such a vehicle could make it possible to facilitate lightning strikes against WMD storage and production facilities and associated platforms. There would also be a chance to wreak havoc against bases of terrorism. Additionally it is necessary to find solutions to the problem of defeating “hard and deeply buried targets”.

Speed-of-light, or directed energy, weapons also hold intriguing possibilities. Space-based interceptors are important as well. They may use kinetic energy or directed energy systems to destroy in-flight theater ballistic missiles soon after launch, like the space-based laser (SBL). Particle beam or high-power electromagnetic (HPM) weapons could be directed against other space or terrestrial objects to disrupt and destroy the target internally. HPM weapons may blow out, jam, spoof, and distrupt electronic equipment on earth or in space as well as disseminate disinformation.

Space-control capabilities include surveillance of space, a daunting task. Here sites outside the United States are important (in Mexico, Diego Garcia (British Indian Ocean Territories), Greenland, and the United Kingdom). It may also in the future become necessary to incapacitate satellites.

A problem in the 1990s was a U.S. Presidency and a Congress dominated by Democrats. There is a similar problem in 2009. A number of senators and congressmen made efforts to stop programs to develop weapons for space. With a Republican controlled Congress it was easier to fund projects for developing the weapons mentioned above. There are no legal restraints. No international agreements forbid defensive use of space weapons. The situation now is back to what it was in the 1990s

Dr. Lamakis excellent book indirectly clearly demonstrates how the European Union is lacking capabilities in the field of space weapons. Europe is indeed a military pygmy compared to the United States. That seems to be one of the reasons why anti-Americanism is on the rise. Seemingly pure envy. During the Cold War American administrations repeatedly urged European allies to spend more on defense. Instead many European countries have decreased military spending. The result is of course that the EU is not capable now of developing weapons for warfare after 2010. Meanwhile the recent increase in the American defense budget allows the United States to raise spending in research and development of hightech weapons.

In today’s geopolitical arena it might not be possible to deploy space weapons but toward the end of the decade the situation might be different. If regimes like the ones in Iran and North Korea are still existing then and have been allowed to continue to develop WMD the opinion might be changing both in the EU and in Japan. The PRC has openly declared that it seeks to hinder the United States to deploy weapons in space. It is also pouring billions into space capabilities of its own.

Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld headed a commission that in the beginning of 2001 recommended that America strengthen its capabilities in space. Then came September 11 and much attention was diverted to the threat of asymmetric warfare. Meanwhile the European governments are sliding further behind in defense capability. The West will more and more have to rely on the United States.

There is much more in this book that is of great interest with important policy recommendations. It ought to be in every university library in the United States, Japan and the European Union..

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