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Commentary—Independent Institute

WASHINGTON—For many years, President Eisenhower’s vision of “space for peaceful purposes” has been under attack by self-proclaimed “space warriors” who believe American security requires that the United States seek to militarily dominate space ... so that other nations cannot “level the military playing field.” The space warriors have had considerable bipartisan influence in the military, think tanks, Congress and several presidential administrations. ...

China fired a “shot across the bow” in January 2007 by destroying one of its aging satellites with a newly developed anti-satellite weapon, replicating a test the United States conducted in 1985. Such orbital adventurism portends danger in the future, especially if the United States projects an air of triumphalist nationalism and exceptionalism toward other countries, or says it will forbid other nations from pursuing the same space technologies. ...

The vast majority of spacefaring nations now seek a new, updated space treaty to reaffirm the international commitment to a peaceful orbital space — but Washington has been obstructing these negotiations. Whereas cooler heads once prevailed and kept the Cold War from ruining space, the mentality of some U.S. leaders today remains as hawkish as ever. ...

Understanding the historical context of the current drive to dominate and weaponize space will be crucial preparation for what could be one of the most important debates of this century. ...

The best way for the United States to secure space for itself and the other 40-plus spacefaring nations is by leading negotiations for a fully verifiable space treaty that would prevent any nation, including the United States, from developing space-related weapons.


Mike Moore is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, former editor of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, and author of the book, Twilight War: The Folly of U.S. Space Dominance.

From Mike Moore
TWILIGHT WAR: The Folly of U.S. Space Dominance
The 1967 Outer Space Treaty expressly prohibited nuclear and non-nuclear weapons of mass destruction in space. Today, every space-faring nation—save the U.S. and Israel—favor a new treaty for the Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space. Mike Moore argues that the U.S. merely provokes conflict when it presumes to be the exception to the rule. Rejecting treaty negotiations while further militarizing space renders America unable to lead by example.