A Trumped-Up Space Force

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Space exploration and exploitation isn’t what it used to be

W.J. Astore

Space, the “final frontier,” isn’t what it used to be.  In the 1960s and early 1970s I grew up a fan of NASA as well as Star Trek with Captain Kirk and Mr. Spock.  NASA was (and is) a civilian space agency, even though its corps of astronauts was originally drawn from the ranks of military test pilots.  Star Trek offered a vision of a “federation” of planets in the future, united by a vision “to explore strange new worlds,” venturing forth boldly in the cause of peace.  Within the US military, space itself was considered to be the new “high ground,” admittedly a great place for spy satellites (which helped to keep the peace) but a disastrous place for war.  (Of course, that didn’t prevent the military from proposing crazy ideas, like building a military base on the moon armed with nuclear-tipped missiles.)

Attracted to the space mission, my first assignment as a military officer was to Air Force Space Command.  I helped to support the Space Surveillance Center in Cheyenne Mountain Complex, which kept track of all objects in earth orbit, from satellites to space junk.  (You don’t want a lost hammer or other space junk colliding with your billion-dollar satellite at a speed of roughly 17,000 miles per hour.)  In the mid-1980s, when I was in AFSPACECOM, an offensive space force to “dominate” space was a vision shared by very few people.  I had a small role to play in supporting tests of an anti-satellite (ASAT) missile launched from F-15s, but those tests were curtailed and later cancelled as the Soviet Union, considered as America’s main rival for control of space, began to collapse in the late 1980s.

But that was then, and this is now, and the “now” of the moment is a new US military service, an offensive space force, proposed by the Trump administration as essential to US national security.  At TomDispatch.com, William Hartung provides the details of Trump’s new space force in this fine article.  As I read Hartung’s article, a thought flashed through my mind: We’re not the peaceful Federation of Star Trek.  We’re much more like the Klingon Empire.

In the original Star Trek, the Klingons were a highly aggressive and thoroughly militaristic species that was dedicated to dominating space.  They were proudly imperial and driven by conquest.  Trump, who with his bombast and barking and boasting would make a great Klingon, sees a “space force” that’s all military: that’s all about domination through aggressive action and better offensive weaponry.

Perhaps you’ve heard the saying: Everywhere we go, there we are.  Increasingly for America, that saying means: Everywhere we go, there our military and weapons are.  Even in space.

The “final frontier” of space, which in my youth was largely a realm of peaceful exploration, whether by NASA in the real-world or in the imaginary future of Star Trek, is now under Trump an increasingly militarized place.  This is so because our minds, perhaps humanity’s true “final frontier,” have also been thoroughly militarized.

A war-driven people will bring war with them wherever they go.  If the Vulcans (like Mr. Spock, who was half-Vulcan) are smart, they won’t reach out to humans if and when we find a “warp” drive that allows us to travel much faster than the speed of light.  Logical and peaceful beings that they are, perhaps they’ll quarantine earth and humanity instead.  Maybe with the Vulcan equivalent of a big, fat, beautiful wall?

9 thoughts on “A Trumped-Up Space Force

  1. I think, when humanity finally starts colonising other planets, the galaxy will not resemble Star Trek as much as it does Warhammer 40K. “In the grim darkness of the 41st millennium, there is only war.”

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  2. On the hypothesis that there is at least one Intelligent Race per Galaxy– it must be assumed of course. Well, so unless we get Warp Drive in the Future, and also that Wormholes exist (purely theory now) rest assured the tremendous time & space realities involved that exist will keep us pretty much locked up to our own devices…

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  3. Unrelated: There is a Stargate down in Cheyenne Mountain, isn’t there? ISN’T THERE? End the conspiracy of silence, man!

    Assertion: A country that can’t build an effective fighter jet (oh, the sad tale of the F-35):

    https://warisboring.com/f-35-program-still-cutting-corners-to-complete-development/

    Will have extreme difficulty building a working Space Force.

    Not to sound like a Trumpist, but what effective military equipment has America successfully designed and built in the last 30 years? Hell, even the stuff we did build, like the effective (well, last century) F-16, we’re now outsourcing to India:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-40344566

    The Space Shuttle hasn’t been replaced, so we still rely on the Russian space program to get astronauts to the ISS, and – at the risk of going all broken record here – the F35 doesn’t work. Last I checked, the vaunted Bush-era anti-ballistic missile systems they’ve installed in Alaska and California are ridiculously ineffective too. The Navy seems to be having a better time of it with the Aegis system – but even that’s got to be getting old.

    The US military has simply been stuck since the end of the Cold War. It sent Marines and soldiers into Iraq without body armor, in Humvees that were never supposed to be in the middle of active combat, in Bradleys that proved incredibly vulnerable to IEDs… and that’s just the Army, which hasn’t been able to replace its Cold War equipment even after half of it wore out in Iraq. The Navy lacks the long-range interceptor it will need to keep those $10-billion Ford-class carriers alive if ever it has to engage China beyond the 1st Island Chain, and the Air Force apparently thinks it needs a new Stealth Bomber more than anything else, because stealth is magic, and always works – just ask the pilot of this F117:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1999_F-117A_shootdown

    Now, I don’t want to see a huge US military budget. World War 2 and the Cold War are over. It ought to be trimmed by at least a half, maybe even 2/3 (contingent on getting China to agree to meaningful, verifiable limitations on its military expansion). But even a smaller force would need new equipment. Russia and China are well on their way down this path, building tanks with remote turrets (excellent crew-protection measure!), combat aircraft that have only frontal-aspect stealth but increasingly good radars, powerful engines, high maneuverability, and a healthy weapons loadout.

    But hey, if America really is committed to putting on the reich, maybe this all makes sense!
    (https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/PuttingOnTheReich)

    Trump’s spirit animal, ol’ Adolf, was also into replacing the regular, traditional military branches with his pet new military, the Waffen SS. And he loved, instead of rebuilding destroyed units with surviving (and experienced) cadre and fresh recruits, setting up entirely new units, resulting in a military that got ever more hollow and disorganized as the war dragged on. And got ground into the dirt.

    I really have to wonder how morale is within the services right about now. Like the rest of American society, I suspect there’s a powerful reform movement waiting in the wings, but those doing well personally under the status quo hold back any changes that threaten their sweet deal. Same thing is happening in academia, government, and business, from what I hear from friends and colleagues.

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  4. Carl Sagan wrote in his book Cosmos in 1980 and in the TV Series of the same name a grim warning on our ability to completely destroy the human race via Nuclear Weapons. At the time, 1960’s, we had our Soviet adversaries (Romulans).

    By the time Sagan’s book was published, the “peace dividend” we expected after the War in Southeast Asia concluded had been jettisoned. Since Sagan’s book others have offered the opinion that given the ability to destroy a civilization with Weapons of Mass Destruction this maybe a happening that is unavoidable.

    Apollo 11 plaque inscription: Here men from the planet Earth first set foot upon the Moon, July 1969 A.D. We came in peace for all mankind in capital letters. The statement “We came in peace for all mankind” is derived from the 1958 National Aeronautics and Space Act’s “declaration of policy and purpose”:

    The Congress hereby declares that it is the policy of the United States that activities in space should be devoted to peaceful purposes for the benefit of all mankind.

    The Apollo 11 Plaque bore the Signatures: Neil A. Armstrong; Michael Collins; Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr.; Richard Nixon, President, United States of America.
    *****************************
    President Agent Orange may need a mission to the moon to leave a new plaque, disavowing that peace crap and claiming the moon for the Trump Organization.

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    1. Way things are going, they’ll have to run the mission through mission control in Beijing. Who, let’s be honest, probably ought to represent humanity to aliens simply by grace of the fact that their civilisation has survived (in one form or another) the longest.

      And really, with the periods where all knowledge gathered during a previous emperor’s reign gets burned by the new rulers, the centuries of unity followed by centuries of brutal civil war, the need to go pick on neighbouring countries to keep the growth rates up – maybe China really is the true face of humanity.

      Regardless, though, I definitely would like to see a global ban on more flags in space. There’s plenty already, so here’s hoping in a century humanity will look at planting flags on solar bodies the same way we look at Columbus planting his on Hispaniola, claiming the ‘New World’ for Spain. (or was it Portugal? And is one Iberian state really that different than another? Ask Catalonia, I guess)

      Of course, if space ends up being totally corporate, we’ll just have giant granite logos all over things. Mars and the Moon as billboards.

      The secret is, aliens have been here, plenty of times. They just realized that dealing with Earth’s gravity well just isn’t worth it when the ground is swarming with homicidal apes.

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