After decades of global expansion, the United States is now considering drawdowns in many parts of the world in which the American establishment has long vested strategic importance. But why? It is perhaps because during the Cold War, a new domain began garnering strategic importance for the United States, namely, outer space. Although the importance of space had diminished to a certain extent in the late 20th and early 21st century, space is back on the map per se, and one could reasonably argue that America’s national security strategy over the next few years and decades will be tailored towards space security and the intertwining of space security with global security.
Space began garnering attention within the American establishment as a domain with strategic importance for national security after the former Soviet Union became the first country in the world to launch a satellite into space in the late 1950’s. After sending its own satellites and even an anti-satellite missile system into space – along with sending a man to the moon – the United States under President Richard Nixon actually went on to sign an agreement on cooperation in space research with the Soviet Union in 1972.
But the interest in space exploration and security in the United States piqued during the Reagan administration. President Ronald Reagan wholeheartedly invested in the idea that space is the “final frontier” for American national security. In the 1980’s Reagan forged what is perhaps one of the most famous security initiatives in American history, namely, the “Strategic Defense Initiative” (SDI) – otherwise known as “Star Wars” – in order to address what was largely a power vacuum in the space domain. As part of SDI, the United States deployed nuclear ballistic missiles into outer space supposedly as a defensive measure against nuclear missile systems wielded by the former Soviet Union.
However, certain individuals have claimed that as part of the Reagan-Gorbachev dialogue which took place in the 1980’s, both the American and Soviet deployments of satellites and weaponry into outer space were actually a collaborative effort aimed at combating a “common enemy,” namely, extraterrestrial creatures and objects. Yet, once Reagan got SDI off the ground in the 1980’s, Gorbachev and the former Soviet Union could not keep up with the United States, and the “arms race” in space is seen by some analysts as the catalyst for the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Gorbachev, in his 1986 summit with Reagan in Reykjavik, had asked Reagan to roll back SDI, but Reagan refused. Reagan’s refusal to budge on SDI in Reykjavik had consequences when it came to the failure of both the United States and the Soviet Union to agree on a broad-based arms limitation agreement in the latter days of the Cold War.
Perhaps incidents such as the famous one in Roswell and Area 51 served as one out of a number of factors that prompted a broader focus on outer space in the United States. In the 1960’s, under President John F. Kennedy, America made significant advances in space exploration and technology through NASA, which was largely a response to Soviet advancements in space exploration and technology. But as mentioned before, the most serious efforts to secure the space domain on the part of the United States were made by the Reagan administration in the 1980’s through SDI. Henry Kissinger has noted that Congress and the Media in the United States ridiculed Reagan for undertaking such an initiative. Perhaps one reason for why Congress and the Media might have derided Reagan for pursuing SDI was its astronomical costs. Estimates put forth by the ‘Council on Economic Priorities’ in the 1980’s placed the cost of SDI somewhere between 400 to 800 billion dollars.
Through SDI, American scientists sought to develop a wide range of technological instruments that would supplement the satellites and weapons systems that were being deployed in outer space. But there were a number of American politicians and government officials who saw SDI as a futile endeavor after SDI failed to make progress beyond the research phase, and as a result President Bill Clinton ended SDI in 1993. The United Nations has also urged the major powers to utilize space for “peaceful purposes” that would benefit mankind, and there are certain UN resolutions and treaties such as the 1967 “Outer Space Treaty” which in fact was a landmark treaty in the development of space law that in turn discouraged the weaponization of space through nuclear weapons. But the United States has justified its space deployments and presence under the premise of self-defense.
Also, as it pertains to the deployment of anti-satellite missile systems, there are no solid legal grounds to prohibit this type of activity given the justification based on self-defense. The United States was the first country in the world to deploy anti-satellite missiles into outer space in the 1960’s, and the former Soviet Union immediately followed suit. Space is now perhaps the domain that will define terrestrial affairs.
And despite the cancellation of SDI in the 1990’s, space security is now back on the agenda here in the United States after years of neglect due to pointless involvements in places like the Middle East and Afghanistan. After some alleged communications and encounters between American military officials and extraterrestrial creatures known to be part of what is known as the “Galactic Federation,” the United States is now pursuing what could be the creation of a “fifth branch” of the United States military called the “Space Force” alongside the Army, Navy, Marines, and the Air Force. President Donald Trump began forcefully pushing for the creation of a “Space Force” – despite his reluctance to spend money – beginning in 2018 after it is believed that Trump had been in contact with representatives of the “Galactic Federation,” according to a testimony from Israel’s former space security chief, Haim Eshed.
It is believed that the United States has even entered into a contract with the “Galactic Federation” which prompts cooperation between the two parties in outer space. Trump’s push for a “Space Force” in 2018 coincided with efforts on the part of the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop proposals to Congress for authorization and support for such a project. Russia and China began developing their space forces in 2015. India is also another country with a sizable space program. As a result, space is now the new “global commons” where a number of countries are seeking to establish a presence. Thus, there is a need for both cooperation as it pertains to securing space, and a common objective and interest when it comes to securing the globe through space security.
While the creation of a space force in the United States is largely in a nascent state despite the advancements made through SDI in the 1980’s, it is the cosmos and thus outer space which may be the future of both scientific research and American national security strategy. Although the prospects of space being the final frontier for American national security is a cause for excitement, it is also a cause for immense concern given that us earthlings are largely vulnerable to any threats which may arise from the space domain. In sum, we do not really know how our technology sizes up to the technology in the hands of our extraterrestrial counterparts.