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Full Spectrum Dominance

It is not often that the empire is put in the position of one its victims, in fear of the military and technical prowess of another country, forced to talk of peace and cooperation, just as Iraq and others, hoping to put off an American attack, were forced to do over the years; just as Iran now. No, China is not about to attack the United States, but the Chinese shootdown of a satellite (an old weather satellite of theirs) in space on January 11, has made a US attack on China much more dangerous and much less likely; it’s made the empire’s leaders realize that they don’t have total power to make any and all other nations do their bidding.

Here’s how the gentlemen of the Pentagon have sounded in the recent past on the subject of space.

“We will engage terrestrial targets someday — ships, airplanes, land targets — from space. … We’re going to fight in space. We’re going to fight from space and we’re going to fight into space.”

— General Joseph Ashy, Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Space Command, 1996

“With regard to space dominance, we have it, we like it, and we’re going to keep it.”

— Keith R. Hall, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Space and Director of the National Reconnaissance Office, 1997

“US Space Command — dominating the space dimension of military operations to protect US interests and investment. Integrating Space Forces into warfighting capabilities across the full spectrum of conflict. … During the early portion of the 21st century, space power will also evolve into a separate and equal medium of warfare. … The emerging synergy of space superiority with land, sea, and air superiority will lead to Full Spectrum Dominance. … Development of ballistic missile defenses using space systems and planning for precision strikes from space offers a counter to the worldwide proliferation of WMD [weapons of mass destruction]. … Space is a region with increasing commercial, civil, international, and military interests and investments. The threat to these vital systems is also increasing. … Control of Space is the ability to assure access to space, freedom of operations within the space medium, and an ability to deny others the use of space, if required.”

— “United States Space Command: Vision for 2020”, 1997

“Space represents a fundamentally new and better way to apply military force”

— U.S. Strategic Command, 2004

And now along comes China, with the ability to make all this proud talk look somewhat foolish. At a State Department press briefing a week after the shootdown, the department’s deputy spokesman Tom Casey stated, presumably without chuckling: “We certainly are concerned by any effort, by any nation that would be geared towards developing weapons or other military activities in space. … We don’t want to see a situation where there is any militarization of space.” He spoke of the “peaceful use of space”, and was concerned about the threat to “modern life as we know it”, because “countries throughout the world are dependant on space based technologies, weather satellites, communications satellites and other devices”.

A reporter asked: “Has the United States conducted such a test destroying a satellite in space?”

Yes, said Casey, in 1985. But that was different because “there was a Cold War that was being engaged in between the United States and the Soviet Union” and there were much fewer satellites moving about space.

Cong. Terry Everett, senior Republican on the House armed services subcommittee on strategic forces, said China’s test “raises serious concerns about the vulnerability of our space-based assets. … We depend on satellites for a host of military and commercial uses, from navigation to ATM transactions.”

Even prior to the Chinese test, the Washington Post pointed out: “For a U.S. military increasingly dependent on sophisticated satellites for communicating, gathering intelligence and guiding missiles, the possibility that those space-based systems could come under attack has become a growing worry. … The administration insists that there is no arms race in space, although the United States is the only nation that opposed a recent United Nations call for talks on keeping weapons out of space. … Although the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty, signed by the United States, allows only peaceful uses of space, some believe that the United States is moving toward some level of weaponization, especially related to a missile defense system.”

Tom Casey, the State Department spokesperson, tried his best to give the impression that the United States has no idea why China would do such a thing — “We would like to see and understand and know more about what they’re really trying to accomplish here.” … “exactly what their intentions are” … “questions that arise about what Chinese intentions are” … “not only the nature of what they’ve done, but the purpose and intent”

But the United States can well imagine what China’s intention was. The Chinese were responding to the efforts of the Bush administration, and the Clinton administration before them, to establish and maintain US military supremacy in space and to use that supremacy as a threatening, or actual, weapon. Beijing wished to put Washington on notice that in any future conflict with China the United States will not be dealing with Iraq or Afghanistan, or Yugoslavia, Panama or Grenada.

“But what did anyone expect?” asks Lawrence Martin, columnist for The Globe and Mail of Canada. “For several years, China, Canada, and virtually every country in the world have been urging the United States to enter into an arms-control treaty for outer space. Leave the heavens in peace, for god’s sake. Come together and work something out. It’s called collective security. … Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney showed no interest in a space treaty. Their national space policy is essentially hegemony in the heavens. They oppose the development of new legal regimes or other measures that restrict their designs. A UN resolution to prevent an arms race in space was supported by 151 countries with zero opposed. The U.S. abstained. It wants strategic control.”

WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir.

He can be reached at:


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