Space, the fifty-first (and best-funded) state

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That old saw, the best offense is a good defense has special meaning when it comes to the national missile defense system, where, as with “defensive” r&d for biological and chemical warfare, the distinction between the two breaks down quickly. Ronald Reagan’s ever metamorphosing Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars,” of two decades ago, is still fiercely with us (though without Reagan’s vision of building a “protective shield” over the country).

This administration is filled with “high frontiersmen,” who have long advocated the taking of space. They are convinced that we are just entering “the American Century” (if Henry Luce was right when in 1943 he proclaimed the century half over to be the American one, then perhaps we have at least 43 more years to go) — and that the militarizing of space will ensure it remains so. NMD is a way to funnel endless moneys into r&d for space wars of every sort (a far harder concept to sell than missile “defense”). It also threatens to be one of the great military-industrial boondoggles of all times, a vast river, an Amazon of financing that will run into the ocean that is the Pentagon budget.

With all eyes glued to Iraq, it’s often hard to realize how strongly this administration has moved on endless fronts to fulfill its long-term goals. For those eager to turn space into the fifty-first state, the enemy is not the “axis of evil” or other rogue states, but a China, imagined as a future superpower. NMD would have the added advantage of forcing China into a nuclear arms race which would make them look threatening indeed. Already we’re twisting arms around the world among our “allies” to join and pony up money for NMD. Paul Rogers of opendemocracy.net reminds us of this and offers a canny analysis of where NMD fits in the global scheme of things. Be patient with him. His columns often start off exceedingly quietly, but they do build.

I’ve added as well a recent column taken from the Baltimore Sun (via thewarincontext.org website) which gives a sense of the levels to which the Pentagon budget has soared and will continue to soar, sucking financing out of we can all guess what else and providing as graphic evidence as money can offer of the large-scale militarization of American society, foreign policy, industrial policy and so on. Tom

The logic of US globalism
By Paul Rogers, November 29, 2002, openDemocracy.net

The US ‘war on terror’ and its plans for Iraq have not stalled momentum behind its missile defence programme. The system will require the cooperation of US allies as well as invulnerability to its adversaries. At what point will the search for limitless freedom become self-defeating?

The intense activity of the ‘war on terror’, combined with the build-up of US forces in the Gulf for a war with Iraq, has taken attention away from one other core aspect of US security policy – national missile defence. This was a key issue before 11 September last year and acquired renewed salience with the US withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, which gave the United States the freedom to develop defences against long-range ballistic missiles.

No sum could fund president’s ambition
By Steve Chapman, November 26, 2002, The Baltimore Sun

CHICAGO – If the Bush administration gets its way, defense spending next year will be $394 billion, or about $100 billion higher than in Bill Clinton’s final year. The United States has the most powerful military on Earth. We now spend six times more on defense than the next 15 countries combined. And you know what? It’s not enough.

Despite the swelling budget, there is still a big gap between our resources and the administration’s ambitions. The president’s new strategy proclaims that we’re not only going to meet any military challenge that may arise, but we may attack any country we see as a developing threat. If we’re serious about that, even an unlimited budget won’t suffice.

To read more of this article in the Baltimore Sun, click here.