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Star Wars: The Sequel
Published on Tuesday, December 26, 2000 in the Cape Cod Times
Star Wars: The Sequel
by Sean Gonsalves
 
In September 1999, at the Citadel military college in Charleston, S.C., then-Gov. George W. Bush gave a policy address that his Orwellian speech writer called: "Defense: A Period on Consequences."

In that speech, he talked about "the contagious spread of missile technology and weapons of mass destruction" and, therefore, the "need" to bolster our unrivaled military power.

"I know that the best defense can be a strong and swift offense," he said. "The best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our terms."

A central piece of Bush's "defense" program is the implementation of Reagan's failed "Star Wars" initiative. Military planners must be excited.

In a Pentagon-commissioned Strategic Studies Group IV paper, it candidly states: "In order to neutralize - and selectively deny access to - space, DOD (Department of Defense) must develop the means to control and destroy space assets, while selectively reconstituting its own capability through multiple sources."

They call it "space control." It's the logical extension of our policy planners stated goal of "Full Spectrum Dominance" - "to defeat any adversary and control the situation across the full range of military operations."

Therefore, U.S. forces must have "access to and freedom to operate in all domains - space, sea, land, air and information," according to the Pentagon's Joint Vision 2000 paper.

All this talk of "defense" blurs important distinctions that need to be made if one is to wade through all the double-talk. In military literature, the concept of the use of force breaks down into two categories: deterrent and compellent.

The idea of deterrence is quite simple: The deterring nation essentially says to the aggressor: "If you do X, we will beat you silly with this stick."

Compellent force, on the other hand, is the use of military power to either stop an adversary from doing something he has already begun or to compel him to do something he has not yet initiated. "We are going to beat you senseless with this stick until you do what we tell you to do."

Bush and company talk about Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) as if it's about deterrence. It's not. It's about first-strike capability - something that can be glimpsed when you consider the development of Anti-Satellite (ASAT) warfare - a program that U.S. military leaders began pursuing in response to the Soviets launching Sputnik.

Since then, ASAT has been developing alongside BMD, according to Robert Aldridge, a former designer of Trident submarine missiles and a 25-year military technology researcher.

"Since missiles and satellites entered the modern age, schemes to destroy both of them have been closely interwoven. BMD and ASAT programs, ostensibly separated and autonomous, have supplemented and reinforced each other for decades," he explained in a paper published in August.

ASAT technology is attractive to military planners because it is easier to destroy a satellite in a known and tracked orbit than to instantaneously detect, target and destroy a ballistic missile, Aldridge points out.

"The Airborne Laser and the Space-Based Laser would also be much more effective against satellites where they only shoot through the void of space, as opposed to shooting down into the atmosphere at missiles in their boost phase. The atmosphere tends to spread the laser beam - called blooming - so it is diffused and cannot be concentrated on a vital spot," he wrote.

Aldridge also notes that decades of ASAT technology research and development has been studiously ignored by the press and politicians. "With all the evidence and professional opinion opposed to BMD - to say nothing of the political, diplomatic and arms-control nuances - one must wonder if there isn't an ulterior motive for such tenacity to missile defense activities. BMD programs could well be a front for developing an ASAT capability; at the very least, a parallel effort.

"But, if so, why is ASAT development being done so clandestinely? Probably because the uproar of public opinion would be even greater and international dissent even stronger."

The truth about BMD and ASAT is masked by the "defensive connotations under which they are presented to the public. It is hard to criticize anything that is truly defensive. In this case, the announced intentions do not reflect the capability the United States is seeking - a capability revealed by close study of how military development programs fit together to achieve it. That is an aggressive first-strike capability which is neither defensive nor deterrent," he concluded.

Bush says "the best way to keep the peace is to redefine war on our terms." I think the best way to create peace is to redefine the terms of the debate and to stop assuming that war is inevitable. This is Star Wars, the sequel, except this is no movie.

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columinist.

Copyright © 2000 Cape Cod Times

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