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Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space

Photo by NOAA Photo Library | CC BY 2.0

Trump’s missile attack on Syria was guided by space-based satellites. I asked award-winning journalist, author, professor and space weapons expert Karl Grossman about the prospects for peace and survival under Trump and his moves toward space weaponization. “With the arming of the heavens, the kind of attack with Tomahawk and other missiles we’ve just seen in the strike on Syria would be succeeded by strikes with space-based weapons – those of the U.S. and other nations – from overhead,” says Grossman.

Raytheon is developing anti-satellite weapons, presumably for use against other countries. Under Trump, there’s talk of reviving the nuclear energy sector. What’s your take on these developments?

KG: This flies in the face of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, signed now by most nations on Earth, and seeking to keep war out of space and designating space a global commons for peaceful purposes. Moreover, if the weaponization of space proceeds, it will be accompanied by a nuclearization of space. Reagan’s “Star Wars” program was predicated on orbiting battle platforms using on-board nuclear power systems to provide the energy for particle beams, hypervelocity guns and laser weapons. His concept has remained a military preference. As a “Strategic Defense Initiative” commander once declared, without nuclear power in space there would need to be an extension cord from Earth bringing up power for space weaponry.

The US already has the Air Force Space Command. What do you make of Trump’s advocating for a “Space Force”?

If the U.S. makes space a new arena of war, moving ahead with space weapons, creating a “Space Corps” comparable to the Marine Corps (as Trump is calling for) it will be opening up a Pandora’s Box. It can be expected that China, Russia and then other countries will react by following in kind.

What’s the way forward?

For decades, most of the world’s nations have supported a treaty for a “Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space” (PAROS), but the U.S., despite whether there was a Democratic or Republican administration, has balked and refused sign on to PAROS. The nation which has led in advocating PAROS has been, incidentally, U.S. neighbor Canada, with China and Russia giving their full support.  Not too incidentally, it was the U.S. along with the U.K. and Soviet Union that were the key in the creation of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967. They understood then the horror ahead by the arming of the heavens. Now we have a Trump administration, wild on issue after issue, which is extreme in opening space for war– it must be stopped.

Professor Karl Grossman teaches at the State University of New York College at Old Westbury and is the author of several books, including Cover Up: What You Are Not Supposed to Know About Nuclear Powerand The Wrong Stuff: The Space Program’s Nuclear Threat To Our Planet.

T.J. Coles is a postdoctoral researcher at Plymouth University’s Cognition Institute. His books include Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia.

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