The Ethics of Militarizing Space

What does the future look like for the United States? Terrorist groups such as the Taliban, Hamas, and ISIL run rampant in the middle east, North Korea and Iran are developing nuclear weapons, and tensions rise between the western world and authoritarian states in China and Russia. The future of the United States is fairly uncertain, but militarization might be the key to a peaceful, more prosperous future. The first time serious talks of militarizing space popped up when President Ronald Reagan proposed building Anti-Ballistic Missile systems in space to combat nuclear threats from other nations. Reagan was laughed at, with critics dubbing his plan “Star Wars” after the popular movie; however, Reagan’s plan could have inspired a wave of defense growth that given time would lead to the militarization of space. Militarizing space could bring peace, economic stability, and a strong military to the United States. So what is militarization? Militarization is defined as to adapt for military use, or to equip with military forces and defenses. If the United States want to ensure the protection of its people, military, and economy, the nation needs to seriously consider militarizing space.

The humanitarian reasons to militarize space are numerous, including increased protection from foreign attacks, new technological advancements like telescopes, shuttles, and artificial intelligence, and improved morals. Some people take protection from foreign threats for granted, not realizing that without powerful countermeasures the US would be vulnerable to various threats, including ballistic missiles, enemy reconnaissance, and cyber attacks. According to J. Michael Waller, the Founder and President of Strategic Information Services, “the U.S. relies on space-based sensors to detect and in some cases shoot down nuclear and ballistic missiles before they reach the U.S., if a foreign power destroyed these sensors the U.S. wouldn’t be able to detect a nuclear threat in time to stop it” (Waller). Without these sensors the U.S. population would be in constant danger of a nuclear attack from nations with nuclear capabilities. Successful nuclear attacks would kill millions of people, destroying the land for decades after, making it unlikely that U.S. would ever fully recover. Civilians also benefit from technological advancements made while exploring and militarizing space. John J. Miller, the director of the journalism program at Hillsdale College, states that “Even seemingly mundane uses of space have military value. The Global Positioning System is well known to civilian navigators, but it was designed for military navigational purposes” (Miller). Technological successes in space that have any commercialized use will benefit civilians, just as the Global Positioning System (GPS) did after it became commercialized in the 1980s but to an even greater degree. Scientists in space could research and develop new technologies, faster shuttles, or even discover life beyond Earth, all of which could benefit civilians. Finally, the US has a moral obligation to militarize space. ‘Control of space is more than a new mission area–it is our moral legacy, our next Manifest Destiny, our chance to create security for centuries to come’ (Pena). The US need to apply a “manifest destiny” approach to militarizing space, justifying it through strict moral codes the U.S. needs to have in an age where morals are ever-changing. The western frontier in the U.S. brought morals and a place to start fresh. If the US can improve the safety, accessibility, and morality of its citizens, militarizing space can be justified through those 3 things alone.

Without assets in space, the US’s reconnaissance, communication, and precision weapons are all at risk of being taken down by another space faring nation, compromising the safety and national security of the U.S. Having the ability to communicate with others across a distance is absolutely necessary in today’s society. According to Waller, “Space holds the key to U.S. communications — not only for the military, but for every single citizen whose news and entertainment, telephone calls, Internet surfing, banking and financial services depend on satellites.” (Waller). The United State’s communication satellites were taken down, every american would be impacted. The internet, which plays a huge role in everyone’s daily lives, would stop working. Everyone in the U.S. relies on the internet whether it is for work, school, or for leisure purposes. Reconnaissance is the military observation of a region to locate an enemy or ascertain strategic features. Subrata Ghoshroy, a research affiliate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, in response to a US laser test on a communication satellite, states that “The test had successfully shown that a reconnaissance satellite high in space was vulnerable to a land-based laser and a much smaller, less powerful laser than expected, at that” (Ghoshroy). This statement showcases the weaknesses that the current U.S. reconnaissance satellites possess, and without controlling space these weaknesses will be exploitable by foreign powers. This would put the hundreds of thousands of troops overseas in danger and ruin the infrastructure of the military as a whole. Another important aspect of the US’s current technologies in space is the satellites that are used to target precision strikes on enemies on the ground. ‘From intelligence to reconnaissance, surveillance to warning to timing [and] getting over the target, to our precision-guidance weapons that you saw used so well in Operation Allied Force to limit the collateral damage, to put a single weapon on a single target, to the weather, to accessing the battle damage after the fight, to the communications … and going even further to computer-network defense and computer-network attack, which uses a lot of space assets.’ (Waller). Precision strikes are key in limiting collateral damage and preventing civilian deaths, without precision strikes the U.S. wouldn’t be able to take out targets reliably. The U.S. military invests too much in space to not have defenses in space.

The U.S. economy is heavily reliant on space because of its numerous benefits and the influence it has on other nations. According to Frederick Jones, spokesman for the Bush era National Security Council, “Technological advances have increased the importance of and use of space. Now we depend on space capabilities for things like ATMs, personal navigation, package tracking, radio services, and cell phone use” (Barry). If the U.S. continues to ignore how vulnerable these assets are in space, the economy would suffer greatly. Without control of space many goods that are integral in shipping and the economy are unusable, creating disastrous results. Militarizing space can be heavily beneficial to the economy. “A U.S. lead in space may indeed be pivotal to the basic geopolitical, military, and economic status of the United States. Consolidation of the preeminent U.S. position in space is akin to Britain’s dominance of the oceans in the 19th century” (Barry). Early dominance in space could easily bring on a great economic upturn with the U.S. dominating trade, just as Britain did in the 19th century. Building defenses and infrastructure in space now will prevent conflicts with other nations in the future. Another benefit the economy brings is the influence it has on other nations. “Much as control of the high seas—and the protection of international commerce—defined global powers in the past, so will control of the new ‘international commons’ be a key to world power in the future,” (Barry). The U.S. could get to a point where international trade relies so heavily on U.S. assets in space and their protection that it could be used to solve foreign conflicts. Tariffs, embargoes, and taxed goods would become the weapons used to win wars or defuse conflicts. A nation the U.S. have good trade with is less likely to attack the U.S. than a nation that has no economic ties to the United States. In conclusion, the U.S. economy relies too much on space and its benefits to not build assets in it, which would increase the influence the U.S. has on other nations.

The economic, military, and civilian benefits that space brings need to be protected from foreign enemies. Because the U.S. economy relies so much space, any attack will potentially ruin the economy. Many technologies in space are militaristic in nature, and the U.S. military without these wouldn’t be nearly effective. The United States’ nuclear defenses are also located in space. With so many important technologies in space, it is imperative that the U.S. militarize space to defend these assets to protect civilians, the military, and the economy.  

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