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Is the U.S. Now Provoking an Arms Race in Space?
February 12, 2008
Mike M. Moore


David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. My name is David Theroux, and I want to welcome you to our Independent Policy Forum this evening. I’m delighted you could join with us.

For those of you who have not been to any of our events in the past, the Policy Forum that we hold is a series of debates and lectures and seminars on different issues. We often feature new books, and tonight is no exception.

Our program tonight is entitled, “Is the U.S. Provoking an Arms Race in Space?” And we’re delighted to have speaking tonight Mike Moore, who’s the author of a new book of ours, called Twilight War. And the subtitle of the book is, The Folly of U.S. Space Dominance.

For those of you who are new to the Institute, I hope that you got a packet when you registered. You’ll find information about membership and books, our journal The Independent Review, upcoming events and so forth. You’ll also be able to get a lot of information—many studies and so forth on our Website, which is called, and we welcome you to browse, and hopefully you’ll find a great deal of information there, including a piece by Mike in today’s San Francisco Chronicle called, “A New Arms Race.”

Also, for those of you who are from the Washington area, or may be there, or have colleagues there, on February 21st, at our D.C. offices, in our conference center, we will be hosting an evening event, a program called “The Secret of Making Poor Nations Rich,” and we’ll be featuring another new book of ours, called Making Poor Nations Rich, which just came out from Stanford University Press. And three of the authors will be speaking, including the editor, Benjamin Powell, who is a professor of economics at Suffolk University in Boston, George B. N. Ayittey, who’s a professor of economics at American University in Washington, and Alvaro Vargas Llosa, who is a Senior Fellow with the Institute in Washington, and directs our Center on Global Prosperity. So if there are people that you would like to refer, or have any questions about it, just ask me, or consult our Website, and we’d be delighted to have them join with us.

As many of you may know, from reading information about our event tonight, one of the starting points of the issue that Mike will be talking about is the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that was designated for peaceful purposes for “the province of all mankind.” And although virtually all space-faring nations have been in favor of a new treaty along these lines, the U.S. has blocked negotiations almost consistently, citing potential threats to U.S. “rights, capabilities and freedoms of action.” And some so-called space warriors even argue that U.S. military dominance in space, orbital space, will be the only guarantee of international peace. But in the book Twilight War, Mike Moore argues that such American exceptionalism “will not guarantee American security—it will guarantee conflict, and possibly even a new cold war, a new arms race.”

Our speaker this evening, we’re delighted, is a Research Fellow here at the Institute. He’s the former editor of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. He’s also served as editor of Quill, which is the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists. He’s been editor of a number of books.

In addition, he’s been editor/reporter for such newspaper as the Milwaukee Journal, Chicago Tribune, Chicago Daily News, and the Kansas City Star. His articles have appeared in many journals, including the Brown Journal of World Affairs, Foreign Service Journal, and others. And he’s spoken at many top conferences and organizations involved in issues pertaining to the subject matter of this book, including the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, the National Atomic Museum, the Council on Foreign Relations, and many other groups.

So I am very pleased to introduce Mike Moore.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Thank you, David. Good evening. I’m not going to coy about things. I think we are heading for an arms race in space, and possibly a new cold war. Now, that’s the bad news. The good news is, I think there is time to do something about it. But in order to do something about it, people have to understand what’s going on. The issue has been flying beneath the radar for many years, and it’s going to continue beneath the radar unless public citizens, ordinary people like you, get involved and begin writing your representatives, and your newspapers, and so on and so forth.

I’m going to go into some background here, which is necessary. There are four strands of thought, which are separate in many ways, but they all mesh together now into a kind of perfect storm in which an arms race is possible. The first strand of thought involves President Eisenhower. Now, many of us—I used to be a Democrat. I still am a Democrat, actually. I never thought very highly of President Eisenhower, but the more I’ve looked into it, the more I think he was pretty good. Regarding space, as early as 1955, he began enunciating a policy he called Space for Peaceful Purposes. This is more than two years before Sputnik.

After Sputnik, many of his top people, including Thomas Dresser White, who was Chief of Staff of the Air Force—that means he worked for Eisenhower—argued publicly that space for peaceful purposes was a dumb policy. He didn’t use that word dumb, but basically, that was what he had to say. He said the United States should develop the means to militarily control space. In fact, in February of 1958, he said, the goal of all Americans—that’s everybody out here—the goal of all Americans should be the military control of space. Imagine saying that when your President says we shouldn’t do that.

From 1958 on, there’s been a lot of people in the Air Force, and in think tanks, and in Congress and so on, who have believed that should be the goal of all Americans—the control of space.

Now, it didn’t happen during the Cold War, for obvious reasons. The Soviet Union was very powerful. They had a good space program. And both countries practiced mutual restraint. And neither country really tried to weaponize space or do anything really bad in space. They were quite satisfied with intercontinental ballistic missiles, which could do plenty of bad things all by themselves.

Now, a second strand of thought has to do with precision war. If you go back to World War I, that was a bloody, bloody thing—eight or nine million soldiers were killed in the trenches and the mud. Millions of civilians died of malnutrition, war-induced malnutrition and disease. The war went on for years, as you know, and a lot of people were pretty horrified by that, especially in the British Air Force—it wasn’t called the Air Force then, they had Air Corps—and then the American Air Corps.They began to develop a doctrine late in the war, and during the years following the war, which called for precision bombing from high altitudes. They believed it would possible to build bombers that could fly deep behind the lines, and destroy military targets and industrial targets, and make it impossible for the aggressor nation to continue the war.

They argued that this kind of precision war would make future wars short and fairly humane. In fact, they used to talk about that a lot—a humane way of doing war. The idea was, if you had precision bombs, and bombers capable of delivering these bombs, you could spare civilians, because you could hit the targets.

As it turned out, in World War II, neither the Brits nor we could hit the targets. In fact, the Brits couldn’t even find the right city at times. They bombed a city in Switzerland one time thinking it was a German city. By the end of the war, nobody knows how many civilians were killed by American and British bombs, but a commonly accepted estimate is about 900,000 in Germany and Japan—900,000 civilians killed as a result of bombs. That’s a staggering figure.

Fast forward to Vietnam. When we fought in Vietnam, we resorted to carpet bombing—and we didn’t like to admit that, but we did. And nobody knows really how many civilians died in Vietnam. Common estimates are two million to three million—not all from bombing, but we’re talking about a huge number.

Now, a lot of people like to condemn the U.S. military, and there’s some truth to that. But I can say, without any hesitation, that the men—and they were men, back in those days—who were second lieutenants and captains in that war, were truly traumatized by what happened. They were traumatized by the fact that there were a lot of American military casualties, and they were traumatized by the fact that they killed so many civilians.

And they began working aggressively on precision weapons in the early ’70s. And I mean aggressively. I mean, all kinds of techniques were tried out—laser-guided bombs, and TV-guided bombs, and so on, and so forth, the idea being that if you could identify the target properly, and guide it precisely to its destination, you would minimize civilian casualties.

Fast-forward to the air campaign, NATO air campaign against Serbia and Kosovo, and Milosevic. We used about 23,000 bombs and missiles in that campaign, 23,000—that’s a lot. Human Rights Watch did an on-the-ground survey, a very intensive survey, after the war. And I personally know the guy who conducted that survey. And they were pretty sure they were going to identify a lot of civilian deaths.

It turned out that they couldn’t do it. The Americans had been so good at targeting that they could only document between 489 and 528 civilian deaths. Now, depending on how you feel about that campaign, you could say that’s 500 too many, the war was not justified, and so on and so forth. You can make all kinds of arguments along those lines.

But it does show something significant. If you have to fight wars– and I don’t think we need to fight very many wars, hardly ever, actually—but if you do have to fight a war, it’s best to do it in the most humane way possible, and precision weapons allow you to do that. From 22,000 feet and 12 miles down range, we can put a GPS guided missile right through the front door here, and do it almost every time. Probabilities are that that missile will hit within 10 or 12 feet of the same point. That’s pretty startling.

Now, in order to make precision-bombing work, you have to have assets in space. You have to have GPS systems in space, and communications, and surveillance satellites, and reconnaissance, and so on. So the key to precision war is our satellites in space. They are not themselves weapons. They’re not shooters. But they are part of the entire system.

So we have to keep that in mind. When space warriors argue that we have to protect our assets in space, they’re making a good point, because if you lack the ability to conduct precision war, then you’re going to go back to the old dumb war, in which civilians were killed on a mass basis.

Of course, there’s another side of that. If you can do war properly, as the George W. Bush administration believed, does it encourage you to do war more often? I think that had a lot to do with the invasion of Iraq. The evidence suggests that they, the Administration, earlier believed that we could end that war in two or three weeks, and everything would be hunky-dory, and hardly anybody would be killed, and people would be cheering in the streets all through the Mideast. It didn’t work out that way, as we know.

Now, another strand of thought is something called space control. Space control goes back again to air war. Before you do anything, you want to achieve control of the air. And the military has simply taken that air-control paradigm and shifted it over to space. If you want to do anything in a military sense, you need to control space. If you look at the definition of air control in, say, 1943, and space control today, it’s almost word for word a transposition. You go from air, to space. Air control is a very major goal for people I call space warriors.

So we have that going on. And then we have another strand—American exceptionalism. Long before this country came into existence, people from the Old World, especially people who came to New England, believed that we were starting the world anew. We were starting on fresh territory, and we were given, perhaps by divine design, a chance to start over again—that we were God’s chosen children. Herman Melville had a classic expression of that in White-Jacket, which I cited in my book.

And even if you didn’t believe that God had given us a second chance to start the world anew, when we began writing the Constitution, many people argued that because of our civic virtue, we were distinct, we were different from everybody else, we were truly an exceptional nation.

I happen to believe that we are an exceptional nation, because we believe in the sovereignty of individuals, of the people, and because we believe in the rule of law. There’s nothing wrong with believing you’re an exceptional nation, but when you apply it to foreign policy, you get in trouble. And the Spanish-American War was the first demonstration of that. After the Spanish-American War ended very quickly, we began to become a colonial power. We decided we would take over the Philippines, for instance, and run it as a colony. This is the first example of American exceptionalism really running amok.

During World War I, Woodrow Wilson was running wild. He believed in the League of Nations. He believed in a multi-lateral solution to the world’s problems. But when you look at it closely, he believed that the entire world should be modeled on the American experiment. He believed in a multi-lateral solution to many problems, as long as it was an American multilateral solution.

Well, after World War I ended, American exceptionalism really died away to a great extent, because the world was perceived to be too complicated, and there was too many competing values, and World War II was too brutal to allow anything quite that simple to flourish.

But after the Cold War came to an end, it had a tremendous revival. We had, on the one hand, triumphalists who said the fact that we won the Cold War—and won in quotation marks—demonstrates that we are truly superior. And meanwhile, you had neo-conservatives who first made their appearance in the ’60s, who were saying, now is the time to produce something called benign global homogeneity, that the Americans had triumphed, and by being assertive in our foreign policy, by being assertive in our military policy, we could end major war forever. We would become so strong that nobody else would ever attack us.

And, of course, we have seen something of a triumph in neo-conservatism in the Bush Administration. And we saw the war in Iraq—which is a war of choice, no two ways about it. It’s a war we began. We called it a pre-emptive war. I would call it a classic preventive war, which means a war of an aggression. And we’ve seen some pretty bad outcomes. Neo-conservatives are taking a lower profile these days, because they know that things didn’t go quite as they expected, but they’re still around.

Now, when it comes to space, the triumphalists mindset and the neo-conservative mindset, the exceptionalist mindset, is very strong among people I call space warriors. They believe that the way to guarantee U.S. security, pretty much forever—and for that matter, the way to end major war, pretty much forever—is for the United States to achieve full spectrum military dominance in space.

Now, they don’t quite put it in such bald terms. They like to talk about achieving full spectrum dominance when required—in other words, we would use our military power only when necessary. But when you read their literature, their manifesto, so to speak, it’s clear that they are also talking about pre-emptive measures. They believe that the United States would be justified in taking pre-emptive action against any other nation that seemed to threaten our own space assets.

When I say pre-emptive action, I mean, really, shooting. There’s just no question about that.

Now, space warriors used to talk about actual shooters in space. Maybe lasers in space, or directed beam weapons in space, or unmanned space bombers that would be called down to earth, or something called Rods from God, which would be tungsten rods that could be called down on targets at hypervelocities and pulverize whatever target they hit. They don’t talk about that so much anymore, because they know it’s frightfully costly. They know that the Iraq war has really sucked the oxygen out of the room at the moment. We’ve spent so much money on that.

So they are talking more and more about a different strategy, and this strategy involves something you can launch from the ground—little satellites you can launch from the ground, or from sea, or from the air, but mainly from the ground—that could go up and seek out satellites of other nations, whether they’re hundreds of miles high, or thousands of miles high, or perhaps 24,000 miles high, up in geostationary orbit. These are little, robotic, autonomous satellites. We have several programs going—some run by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, some run actually by NASA, some by Air Force Space Command, and some run jointly by these different outfits.

We’ve tested these robotic satellites, and we’ve tested them very successfully. We have demonstrated a technology that nobody else is even close to. We have even intercepted our own satellites in geostationary orbit, which is about 24,000 miles above the equator. And one test was supposed to bring this little robotic satellite up within—oh, I don’t remember now, but 10 yards or something like that. But we made a mistake, and it actually bumped into our satellite and knocked it silly.

But the fact is, we can find objects in space. We can rendezvous with objects in space. And if you can do that, you can do nasty things to them.

Now, we say the reason for this is because we want to service our satellites in space. We want to refuel them, and so on and so forth. But as space warriors are quick to admit, if you can get up close and personal, then you can damage another country’s satellites. You can spray a paint-like substance on its sensors. You can drag it into a useless orbit with a Mylar net. You can bump it into a useless orbit. You can set off a little electromagnetic pulse and fry its innards. You can do any number of things if you can get close enough to a satellite.

So we’re working on this kind of thing. And this is not pie in the sky. It’s not like lasers in space. This is something we’re doing right now, and other countries know it.

Now, in fact, other countries have been worried about our space plans for some years. Going back to 1981, the U.N. General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly, year after year, to ask the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva to negotiate a new treaty that would ban all space-related weapons. Since 1981, every year, the United States has abstained in the General Assembly, and then blocked any such negotiations at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva.

Now, in recent years, since 2005, we actually have voted no. We haven’t merely abstained, we simply have voted no. But we use our veto power in Geneva to make sure that nothing happens.

Now, we say many things. One thing we say is that, well, there is no arms race in space. And that’s almost true, because can you have a race if there is only one entry? No other country in the world is working on the kind of military space technology that we’re working on.

So maybe there isn’t an arms race in space. However, China and Russia have been very active since 1999 in trying to promote the idea of a new space treaty, and last year, a year ago January, the Chinese demonstrated a capability, an ASAT capability of their own. They blasted one of their aging weather satellites, which was about 500 miles above the Earth. Did it with a kinetic kill vehicle, which is basically ramming the satellite in space like the Greeks used to ram Trojan ships, and so on and so forth.

It caused great consternation. Now, people I call space warriors, hard liners, said, it’s proof that the Chinese have been talking peace, but really preparing for war. It was a challenge to the U.S.

Some people have claimed that the PLA, the People’s Liberation Army, was simply out of control. That they’ve been working on ASAT technology since the ’80s—which is true. Everybody has been working on ASAT technology, because they’re been worried about the U.S. And when they finally had something to test, they tested it without informing the Foreign Office or anybody else.

That may be true. The Chinese government is pretty inefficient. It’s corrupt. It’s repressive. It doesn’t communicate well from one division to another, so maybe that’s true.

Another possibility, which I happen to buy, is that the Chinese have been dismissed, in a most cavalier way possible, since 1999, when they’ve argued that a new space treaty was needed, that it was a shot across the bow. It said, in effect, that either we get serious about negotiating a new treaty, or they will challenge us.

Well, so far, nothing much has happened. The United States has condemned this test, even though it repeated a test that we conducted in 1985, a very similar kind of test. We have condemned it out of hand. We simply say, the Chinese are posturing. They don’t really want a space treaty. They’re trying to lull us into complacency. They’re trying to fool us. They’re trying to play games with us.

Well, maybe they are. I’m no great friend of the Chinese government. Chinese people are one thing, but the Chinese government is something else. I’m no great friend of the Chinese government.

On the other hand, I don’t know how we would know what their intentions are unless we sit down and really talk seriously. But we have refused to do that. We say we want to keep our options open. We don’t want anything to tie our hands. That’s our official U.S. policy. And it was under Bill Clinton, as well as George W. Bush, not to negotiate any new space treaties, not to foreclose any possibilities. And one of the possibilities we want to keep open is that we will control space.

We’re at a pivotal point right now. The Chinese and the Russians have jointly introduced a new proposal today—a few hours ago. I haven’t read it yet, except for news accounts. Everybody knew it was coming. The United States government dismissed that proposal two weeks ago. Two weeks before it was even introduced. Same old stuff, they said.

Well, maybe it is. But based on their prior proposals, it looks pretty good. It looks as if a treaty could be negotiated if people entered into negotiations in good faith. Why not sit down and talk?

Well, maybe when we have a new administration, things will change. But we have been refusing, as I say, since 1981, to sit down and talk. Now we should change policies, just as we change administrations.

Now, I’m going to conclude by reminding people, as my book certainly does, that the United States is an exceptional nation. Sovereignty is vested in the people, and the rule of law is supposed to be paramount. I say that if all the nations of the world, save the United States and Israel—which votes with us, too—if all the nations in the world say they want a new space treaty, one that would prevent space-related weapons, the weaponization of space—if all the nations in the world say that, and we just say, oh, the heck with you, are we not acting in a lawless way?

I think we are. I think the United States is really too good for that—at least, our ideals are good for that. I think we need to pay attention. I think we need to have a less imperial, less hubristic, less arrogant foreign policy. I think we need to sit down and negotiate, and do it in good faith, and see what happens. If we determine after two or three years that nothing much is going to happen, that the Chinese and the Russians are really posturing, then we will have learned something and not lost any ground, because we are years, and years, and years ahead of everybody else.

So. It’s back to you guys. You’re the American people. We’re all the American people. The sovereignty is vested in us, and we need to get on the ball and start paying attention to these issues, and writing everybody we can, speaking out, and making our voices heard.

The rule of law is important. It’s important in this country, and it’s important in the world, too.

Thank you, and I hope you have a lot of good questions, and especially provocative questions, and I do like to debate and argue and whatnot. So fire at me.

Audience Member

I get most of my news, not from newspapers, but from the Internet, and of course, some of that may be suspect. But the Internet people are saying that Russia is far superior to us in many ways, particularly in Tesla-type weaponry, directed energy weaponry, and the use of HAARP and weather modification, which could be some kind of thing. I don’t know how it’s related to space weaponry. Are you saying that the robotics and the things that you were referring to in your talk are far superior to those things, like Tesla domes and things like that?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

I don’t know what Websites or bloggers you’re consulting, but it’s all fantasy. We’re so far ahead of the Russians and the Chinese in every regard that there’s nothing to it. HAARP doesn’t exist. Weather modification doesn’t exist. I mean, it’s all science fiction fantasy.

And I have to say that I was editor of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists during the ’90s—through no fault of my own, I just happened to fall into the job. But there were 27 Nobel laureates on the Board of Sponsors, and that made it pretty prestigious. And it opened the doors to a lot of people in academe, and the military, and think tanks, and so on, many of whom had very high security clearances—including people who are members of a group called the Jasons, which offers scientific advice to the President.

And I don’t think any of these guys are lying to me. They didn’t reveal any classified information to me. But these are some of the world’s best scientists, and they tangentially said all this stuff is fantasy.

Now, robotic small sats are not fantasy. I mean, we are testing those.

Audience Member

In the situation as you describe, why would the United States want to negotiate? What does it have to negotiate with the other countries? The parallel would be, when the Royal Navy ruled the seas, you’d have all kinds of small countries that would love to negotiate with the Royal Navy on what the Royal Navy could and could not do, and the British would say, why should we tie our hands beforehand?

We have to have an incentive just to have a negotiation.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

I love that question, because it gives me a chance to expound a little bit more and because that question is brought up quite often.

First, I would say that a new arms race would be dangerous in a different way than the nuclear arms race. In the nuclear arms race, if everything went wrong, civilization would simply come to an end. We would be reduced to some kind of a primitive existence.

A space arms race isn’t anything like that. The cost of a space arms race is opportunity cost. We have a laundry list of global problems, problems that cross national boundaries. The United States and other countries have got to work together to solve some of these problems, or at least mitigate them.

If one nation decides it’s going to achieve a space control capability, or a space dominance capability, it’s going to trigger an arms race and mutual mistrust, distrust, and it’s going to poison the atmosphere in terms of working on some of these global problems.

Now, I could go on for an hour about some of these global problems, but I think you all know that we are facing some real global problems, and we need to work together to solve them, or at least do something about them.

Another answer is, land has been the scene of conflict since cavemen, I suppose. The sea for thousands of years. After all, the Athenians came to power with their triums and so on and so forth.

And even in the air, conflict came early. When World War II began, both sides had observation planes scouting around. And in the first few weeks of the war, maybe the first few months, pilots on either side would wave at one another as they went by. And then, they began to figure, well, heck, maybe I can shoot that guy with a pistol, or a rifle, or a throw of flechettes—little darts—at them, and bring them down. And it wasn’t long before there was war in the air. It just developed like Topsy—it just happened.

Space is different. Space has not yet been a scene of conflict for—well, since 1967: the Outer Space Treaty. Space has been declared by virtually all of the world’s nations, including the United States, as a sanctuary—as a space that should remain free of conflict forever. “The province of all mankind”—you didn’t say humankind in those years.

There is a chance that we can preserve space as kind of a sanctuary—not a pristine sanctuary, perhaps, but as a place free of conflict, if we work together to do it. But there’s pretty much zero chance that that’s going to happen if we pursue the path of space dominance.

Now, let me explain something, which I don’t think I mentioned. If we have a space-related arms race, we can be very sophisticated in how we attack satellites, if it ever came to a conflict. We would not smash them into thousands of little pieces. We would do something else. We don’t want to create debris.

But it isn’t really very hard for other fairly sophisticated countries like China and Russia to smash satellites, at least in low earth orbit. And if you do that to any great degree, if you’re big on smashing a lot of them, maybe a dozen, or 20, or something like that, you have made space unusable for any purpose for hundreds of years, maybe thousands of years. Because you would fill low earth orbit with chunks of debris, so many chunks you couldn’t dodge them anymore. And you can’t put anything into space without going into low earth orbit first, even if you’re going to Mars. You have to go into an orbit just a few hundred miles above the earth before you shoot it off into wherever you’re going—moon, or the Mars, or whatever.

You have to pass through low earth orbit, and if it’s full of debris, you can’t do that. And all of a sudden, the world is back in the 1950s, but we’re not ready to go back to the 1950s. We have billions more people on the Earth, we have global communications that depend on satellites. Our whole society, Western society, Japanese society, Chinese society, depends very largely on space assets. So the problem is, if we really go all the way, and if there is conflict, it’s going to affect the entire globe, and it’s going to affect the entire global economy. It would come crashing down. People would starve. I don’t need to go into that.

Audience Member

Actually, you addressed a lot of the points I was going to ask. But I guess what the follow on to what you just mentioned, in terms of the problem of debris, which I understand is a significant problem even now. I had a conversation with a senior scientist with the space program at UC Berkeley just about a week and a half ago, and said, even now, when they’re trying to launch rockets, they have to wait days, they have to get it just right to be able to shoot through the debris that they have now. And there was a lot of attention, obviously, when the Chinese destroyed their own satellite because of the debris and the projection of that, in terms of mucking things up.

So I’m curious—where is the telecommunications industry on this, in terms of weighing in, which would clearly prejudice their assets, their ability to make profits, etc., and other allied industries that would clearly benefit from not removing space from a sphere of operations?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

They’ve been, I think, strangely quiet about this. The whole commercial space sector has been strangely quiet. And I don’t know exactly why, because as you point out, they have a vested interest in seeing that conflict in space does not happen.

I guess they’re just slow to react. When Donald Rumsfeld became Defense Secretary, he was widely known to be in favor of weaponizing space. I knew that in 1998, at a Chicago Council on Foreign Relations meeting. We were discussing space issues, and I came out of that meeting saying, boy, he really wants to weaponize space. He chaired something called the Space Commission in 2000. They presented their report in January of 2001, and the Space Commission report—which you can all find on the Web, just go to Google, plug in Space Commission in quotation marks, and you’ll be able to download it. It doesn’t say we should have weapons in space. It argues that the President should have that option.

In 2002 and 2003, I was on three national commissions, closed-door meetings with national security experts and space experts. And to a man, and to a woman, they all believed that Don Rumsfeld came into that crushing job to transform the U.S. military, and part of his transformation was to get us into space in a big way. If not for 9/11, we’d be there today, because he was a very determined man. And 9/11 sidetracked everything, as we know.

Why is the commercial industry silent? Maybe they don’t believe it’s going to happen. Maybe they’re scared. I don’t know. Don’t know the answer to that.

Audience Member

I’d like to invite you to clarify your statement about Project HAARP being a fantasy. Some years ago, I did a report on the military’s plans, and gave my report to the Washington Post. They didn’t bother to publish it until after the report won a Project Censored award. There is a base in Gakona, Alaska. They did lose a good amount of their funding, after the story was released. They did state in their internal publications that one of their goals was to burn holes in the ionosphere. Were we so successful in our exposé that they have now become a mere fantasy?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Well, I don’t want to suggest HAARP did not exist. But I will suggest, based on what others have told me—I don’t have any direct knowledge of this. But people who do have direct knowledge simply say it didn’t go anywhere. It turned out to be a fruitless endeavor, which is not the first time we’ve engaged in fruitless endeavors in the Defense Department and elsewhere.

Audience Member

May I make a comment, and then ask a question? I am from Russia. And an interesting phenomenon has been happening in the past few years. The brain drain out of Russia during the ’90s is over. A lot of Russians are going back, and the younger Russians are not leaving Russia. m not saying this out of any kind of false patriotism—actually, I haven’t been to the old country in 30 years. But this just interests me from a purely—just curiosity.

I suspect that even though Russia may be behind in the space program at present, I would not be surprised if about 10 years from now, it’s going to be up to speed. Because Russia sits on enormous resources, and it’s a very wealthy country, and things seem to be going fairly well for the country economically.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Well, you’re quite right. The scientific expertise in the Russian space program is really extraordinary. In the early ’90s, it was in sad shape. I talked to the director of the unmanned space program. And he talked about how his space scientists could do better by driving a bus, economically speaking.

Things have really turned around in Russia. I don’t have any doubt that the Russians could take us on if they wanted to. What I have doubts about is whether the Russians really want to do that –to engage in another arms race of any kind with the United States.

Now, if we continue to act like we don’t care about what anybody else thinks, they might well do it. I mean, we’ve seen some pretty strong statements out of Moscow in recent days, and recent weeks.

I think the Chinese are much more likely to take us on, because the Chinese are still wary of our national missile defense system. In the early ’70s, when we tried to develop a limited missile defense system, we said it was oriented at the Chinese. And today, when we try to develop our new limited missile defense system, it still looks like an anti-Chinese system to the Chinese.

Now, I don’t think the Chinese have any thought that we’re going to just willfully attack them. But they do believe, at pretty high levels, that the United States, with its missile defense system, combined with its super accurate missiles, could be a very coercive power in the future.

So the Chinese are very worried about us. At the same time, I’m convinced that the Chinese don’t want an arms race, because their business is Wal-Mart-ing America. You remember in 1956, Khrushchev, in Moscow at a reception, said, we will bury you. Everybody knows that statement: we will bury you. And that was widely interpreted in this country as a direct military threat.

It wasn’t anything of the kind. What he was talking about was, our system is better than your system. Our system is the wave of the future. And history will judge us to be the winner. We will bury you, because Communism will triumph.

Well, it didn’t happen that way, and the Chinese learned a lot from that. In the early ’70s, the Chinese began saying, well, we may want to retain a Communist government, but otherwise, we’re going to get rich, and we’re going to do capitalism with Chinese characteristics.

Right now, the Chinese are in bed with us, and we’re in bed with them. We depend on the Chinese to produce consumer goods for us—the China price is on everybody’s lips. It doesn’t mean things are actually made in China, but if you’re manufacturing cheap consumer goods, you have to match the China price in order to get business. So cheap consumer goods are coming in from China. That gives the Chinese people a lot of jobs.

And China needs a lot of jobs, because they have a very restive population. They have horrendous unemployment and underemployment. They have little uprisings all around the western provinces. You don’t read about them much, but these uprisings happen. The only way the Communists can keep in power is to provide jobs.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are investing heavily in U.S. Treasuries. I mean, the space warriors say, oh, China’s the next great threat. So why are they buying $200 billion a year in Treasuries, which allow us to keep our interest rates low, because we don’t want our own Treasuries. So we depend on China and Japan and Saudi Arabia to buy our Treasuries, so we can keep our interest rates low.

I mean, we’re all in bed together. Why would the Chinese want to attack us? Why would they want to take us on in an arms race? It doesn’t make any sense.

Audience Member

You mentioned that all these policies are pretty much under the radar, and that if we, in our allegedly democratic society, are going to change anything, how do you propose to take them from under the radar and bring them into the open?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Well, if a million people buy my book that will be a start. Everybody should buy 10 copies, pass them around to your friends.

No. I don’t have a good answer. But my start is simply to write about it, and I hope I can encourage other people to pay attention. I was down at Stanford today, trying to encourage the arms control group down there to pay more attention to this issue. They’ve been involved in nuclear issues, and proliferation issues, and national missile defense issues, but not really in these new kinds of space issues.

I’m just a little missionary, trying to do what I can.

Audience Member

What is the role of the International Space Station? You see people from all over the world there, and it appears we’re actually working with these people. Is that just a sham, or is it for real? Are they developing weapons up there, or doing something that we should know about?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

No, it’s not a sham at all. It’s simply a boondoggle. I mean, it’s horrendously expensive, it doesn’t accomplish any real scientific work, and it was conceived mainly as a way to help the Russians in the early days, when things were so bad with them. We’re not developing any weapons there. We’re not doing any real scientific research. It’s just a nice, friendly, international boondoggle. But we don’t let the Chinese participate. We don’t want the Chinese up there. They might learn something.

Audience Member

I picked this statement out of the newspaper a while back, and I think it more than emphasizes what you’ve been saying. Quote—“The Commander in Chief of the U.S. Space Command, General Joseph Ashy stated, ‘It’s politically sensitive, but it’s going to happen. We are going to fight from space, and we’re going to fight into space, the fourth dimension of warfare.’”

That’s a pretty strong statement.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Yeah, well, I’m kind of glad you brought that up, because that was kind of my trigger. He said that in 1996, when he retired as Chief of the U.S. Space Commander, Air Force Space Command, and NORAD—it was then a three-hat job. And I was at The Bulletin at that point, and I really had access to a lot of people who knew a lot about national security matters, and I began asking them, what’s he talking about?

And because none of these people I had talked to seemed to perceive any real threat in space, any reason why we’d have to fight into space, and fight from space, I began looking at what U.S. Space Command was putting out. The next year, they put out a brochure. It was like a brochure advertising a retirement community in Florida. It had glossy pictures, and nice big type, and all of that. But it spoke about space dominance—how the United States was destined to dominate space. The back cover had an artist’s rendition of a space laser firing down toward the earth. It was just fantastic. In fact, you can call it up on the Web. I guess you would go to “U.S. Space Command” plus “Vision 2020.” You’ll find it somewhere on the Web. Everything’s on the Web somewhere.

But I began thinking, well, God, these guys are really kind of nutty, and nobody was taking them seriously. And then Don Rumsfeld came along, and I thought, well, it’s time to take it seriously.

Audience Member

Just coming back to the earlier question, for those of us for whom this is a slightly arcane footnote in a bigger picture, is there really no place where we can find out more information about this? I mean, is it just that in the generous budgets, which are allocated to Defense, there is a few billion secreted here or there? Or is there anything tangible that we could direct our attention to, as it relates to this whole subject, i.e., the budgets allocated to it, the section of the Defense Department that’s responsible for it. Any of those types of things? Or is this all very much cloak-and-dagger stuff?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

It’s not cloak-and-dagger. In fact, the U.S. government has been very open about this. And I’ve talked to people about the openness issue. And the consensus seems to be that we want other nations—we don’t necessarily want the American people, but we want other nations—to know what we’re doing, because the whole point of this is to persuade other nations that we are so powerful, that we are so far ahead, that nobody will ever challenge us.

I mean, we say that. We say that continually in different documents, that we will be so powerful that no other nation will ever take us on in a global competition.

Where could you go? I think the Center for Defense Information has a good Website, which will take you in many different directions. The Stimpson Center has a good Website that will take you in many different directions.

But you should know that we’re not spending a lot of money on this. Most of it is in our missile defense program. Defense is a magic word, because everybody loves defense.

And although I had a little argument today with a man at Stanford who believes missile defense might actually work, he’s the first high-level scientist I’ve run into who says it would work—maybe, who has some opinion on this.

But the infrastructure you need for a national missile defense is almost precisely what you need for an offensive anti-satellite system. And while it’s very difficult to hit an incoming missile fired in anger, if you don’t know precisely where it’s coming from or when it’s going to be fired, it’s awfully easy to hit a satellite. Because you know at every second, literally every second, where that satellite’s going to be, because they follow a predictable path. You attack it when it’s in full sunlight, so that it’s against the blackness of space, it’s easily seen.

So most of the money being spent actively is in the national missile defense program. Right now, the sums are trivial. I’ve tried to figure them out, and I imagine there’s some money in the black budget that, of course, I don’t know about.

And I think on the outside, maybe we’re spending $30 billion a year, mostly in the missile defense program. We’re spending $171 billion a year in Iraq, so that’s not a big amount.

What we have is a problem with rhetoric. Our rhetoric is so belligerent that it is persuading other nations that we just might do it. And if we just might do it, then they need to begin to react to it.

I guess the question on the floor is, have we sent books to people in Congress?

Audience Member

And the candidates for the Congress running.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

And candidates? No, I really don’t know how you’d get through the filters during an election year. I’m hoping that some reporters somewhere will hear me, and say, it’s a good question to ask at a major press conference, and kind of force them to answer.

But the problem is, it’s a very complicated issue. Because when our space warriors speak, they always talk about these things in defensive terms. Everything we do is defensive.

It’s like going into Iraq. The reason we went to Iraq was defensive, remember? Because they were going to attack us someday, so we’d better hit them first. And the American people love the word “defensive.” And it takes some real hard explaining, some hard rhetoric, to get across the idea that what is called defensive can also be offensive. Any football fan knows that, of course.

Audience Member

What do you make of the Administration’s ambitions to build an intercontinental ballistic missile base in Czechoslovakia, and Poland? Thank you.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

It’s not an ICBM base. We’re talking about missile defense installations.

And it seems to me it’s unnecessarily provocative. It really ticks them off. Two reasons. First of all, they believe that it lay the groundwork for negating their offensive missiles. They’re a deterrent force. I’m all for everybody negating offensive missiles. Most people don’t realize how many offensive missiles both sides have, ready to go, and how many warheads. I mean, we could still destroy civilization pretty ably with what we have now.

And then, two, if you build bases that close to Moscow, you go back to 1983 and ’84, when we were planning to introduce intermediate range missiles into NATO countries, and the Soviets argued—and rightly so—that that would mean that we would have the capability of taking out command centers in, say, 10 minutes. Ten-minute flight time, and their command centers are gone.

Now, that was a very tense time, and we could describe what we’re doing in eastern Europe as interceptors to protect us and other countries from missiles fired from Iran, but who’s to say that these aren’t really missiles aimed at Moscow? You have to rely on our good word, in that case, and this brings me to another point.

Political science realists talk about the need to measure capabilities. Intentions are important—you try to understand the intentions of other countries. But when you’re planning for the future—and most military people plan for worst-case scenarios—you have to try to measure the capabilities of possible adversaries.

And you cannot simply take their word for it. Space warriors talk about the military control of space in a time of conflict—and that’s the key phrase, “in a time of conflict.” If you develop the capabilities we’re talking about, who’s to say that our intentions would not change, or could not change, in five years, or 10 years?

That’s what Eisenhower was all about. You may recall that when he came to office, Truman had been besieged by military officers who wanted to start a preemptive war against the Soviet Union before they got the bomb, and before they got stronger, and so on and so forth. And Eisenhower encountered the same kind of thing. He had all kinds of military men saying we’ve got to hit them before they grow strong.

Curtis LeMay—you remember him—he said, “We’re going to knock the shit out of them.” I don’t care what national policy is, if we—meaning SAC—thinks they’re going to attack, we’re going to hit them first.

And I’m quoting his words, I’m not using bad language just for the heck of it.

Eisenhower did not believe the Soviet Union wanted to strike us. He did not believe they wanted war. He did not believe a bolt from the blue was possible, but he believed that the only way he could persuade the hardliners in his administration, and the newspapers, and so on and so forth, was to gather hard data about Soviet capabilities.

That’s why we had the U2 flights. The U2 flights were tremendously successful in measuring what the Soviet Union had and probably didn’t have. And then, even while the U2s were flying, he authorized the first spy satellites, something called Project Corona. And even though there were a dozen failures before the first successful spy flight, or spy satellite, he said we’ve got to keep at it. It’s too important to America.

The Corona satellites revealed that the Soviet Union simply didn’t have the capabilities to launch a bolt from the blue. Eisenhower was able to tame our own military that way, and he was also able to pursue a peace agenda. I mean, he really tried very hard to work out some kind of an agreement with the Soviet Union that would end the arms race, or at least tone it down—bring it under control.

So, these things cannot be forgotten. My book goes into them. I’m trying to give a little history here, as well as argue about what we’ve got to be doing in the future.

Audience Member

Two brief comments, and a question. In terms of the defense policy of any country, I note for you that the translation from the German, of the German Army in World War II, wehrmacht, the translation is defense force. And I think people generally tend to ignore that.

I then have for you the quotation of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who said that a good catchword will stop analysis for half a century.

And we have that also.

I then note for you that if one connects the dots to the satellites that you just mentioned, the U2 flights, and other such things, you find that before we had U2 flights, right after World War II, we had the American Strategic Bombing Survey, which laid the groundwork for all that you are discussing here and now. And the policies behind that, I think, are very crucial and interesting, and I would ask you if you would mention that as part of your presentation tonight.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

I’m not sure—you want me to go into the Strategic Bombing Survey?

Audience Member

I’m curious, the connections.

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Well, I guess I don’t see any real connection. The Strategic Bombing Survey, which is pretty exhaustive, and John Kenneth Galbraith, I think, directed the European Survey?

Audience Member

He may have, I’m (overlapping conversations; inaudible).

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

They were pretty thorough, pretty exhaustive, and I think they concluded that although we demolished a lot of buildings and factories and killed a lot of people, we—meaning the Brits and us—we didn’t affect German war production very greatly. That’s where precision bombing comes in. Airmen said, in the next war, we’re going to do it right.

Well, the next war was Korea, and we didn’t do it right—two million civilians were killed. Next war was Vietnam—two to three million civilians were killed.

Finally, we can do precision bombing. The Air Force doctrine since 1917 and ’18 has embodied the idea of precision bombing. Not everybody in the Air Force agreed with that, but that doctrine goes back to World War I. In fact, we were planning a strategic bombing campaign that would begin in, I think, in the spring or summer of 1918. The war ended to too soon to try that.

But the direct connection between the Strategic Bombing Survey and all this—I don’t quite see that. I do see the direct connection between fears of air control, control of the air, and control of space. The ultimate high ground—we call it—space wars, call it the ultimate ground. You’ve always got to have the ultimate high ground. It’s a mantra.

David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

Did you want to take another question?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Oh, I can talk ’til the cows come home, as they say back in Missouri.

Audience Member

You’ve spoken several times about the Council on Foreign Relations. Are you a member? Are your ideas widely held within the CFR? Are you likely to have an article published in the Foreign Affairs magazine? Basically, are you a lone voice in the wilderness, or have you got a lot of other people who share your concerns?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

No, I was a member of a Council on Foreign Relations study group on space posture in the 21st century. I don’t recall how many were on that study group—25 or 30.

The people who really ran the group were a colonel in the Air Force, who believes in space sanctuary, by the way, and a scientist named Dick Garwin. And we’ve met several times, and we tossed things around, and discussed things, all behind closed doors, and then, Garwin and this colonel and another guy, basically a writer, put it all together and published it, I think International Security.

I could send you an e-mail citation. If you would write me, I would send you a citation.

Feel free to email me with questions. If you send me e-mails, I can send things back to you leading to all kinds of things. But I don’t remember these URLs in my head.

Audience Member

At some level of there seems to be the disconnect between those like you and those you talked to at Stanford, who’ve been working on national missile defense issues. So why the lack of appreciation from folks?

Mike Moore
Author: Twilight War: The Folly of the U.S. Space Dominance

Oh, I don’t think there’s a lack of appreciation. Just, the academic world is kind of divvied up, and Stanford has been mainly involved in arms control, nuclear arms control and proliferation, and national missile defense. And they haven’t ignored this issue, by any means.

But the University of Maryland—John Steinbrenner’s group—is really the lead outfit, so to speak, in doing work on space arms control.

And I suppose there’s a sense that if one school is doing that, then we’ll do something else, or vice versa. I don’t know how academics work, but the University of Maryland is doing some great stuff.

David Theroux
President, The Independent Institute

I want to thank you all for joining with us, and Mike would be delighted if you bought at least one copy of his book, and he’d be happy to autograph it for you.

If I could interest you in one more round of applause for Mike and his work?

Thank you.

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Thank you for joining with us. Good night.


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