Lost in Space: A Realist and Marxist Analysis of US Space Militarization

Brent Cooper (brentcoop1@gmail.com) University of British Columbia 1

March 2009 Introduction The weaponization (or militarization) of space refers to a process that started with the Cold War and accelerated in the early 1980s with the Strategic Defense Initiative anti-ballistic missile program. Today, in a technologically advanced post-9/11 world this brings new political implications and consequences. In 1999, a United Nations resolution entitled "Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space" unanimously opposes such endeavors and classifies space for peaceful use only.1 Only two states abstained from this resolution: the United States and Israel. The US Space Command, now US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM), published a document in 1998 titled Vision for 2020 that declared America’s ambitions for “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 [sic].”2 What can explain the US’ exponential obsession with putting weapons in space after the Cold War ended? To many concerned scholars, these ominous security measures pose a greater threat than does exposure to other threats posed by the absence of such defenses. Two theoretical lenses that can help explain the US space weaponization agenda are neorealism and Marxism. Neorealism asserts that security is the main prerogative of states and 2

thus in an increasingly uncertain world space weapons are the necessary application of US power in order to maintain security. Marxists tend to see capitalist expansion as a form of imperialism so therefore space weaponization is viewed as a means to protect economic interests and facilitate the spread of free markets. By examining the space weaponization regime through these theories we can reveal the various factors determining the US space policy. Furthermore, in our advanced stage of global capitalism national security is often viewed as inextricably linked to economic interests. Due to this convergence of interests and the shared assumption of both theories that the weaponization of space is inevitable, I will show that the US agenda is not adequately explained by either theory alone, but rather is best explained by a fusion of neorealist and Marxist analyses. Background Space weaponization actually began with space exploration in the name of peace and freedom under the auspices of the United States in response to Soviet space initiatives.3 Then President, Eisenhower, advised that a space free from weapons was in the best interests of the United States.4 In 1968, an aerospace commander, Maj Gen Oris B. Johnson, was the first to seriously promote US space weaponization stressing the "continuity of the air/space medium" and the inevitability of military expansion. He argued that the normative 3

policy of space for peace was compromised by Soviet military initiatives in space. While many jumped on the space weaponization bandwagon, Maj Howard D. Belote, United States Air Force (USAF), argued in 2000 that the Eisenhower mentality has dominated for forty years, keeping space weapons at bay,5 but it has done so only marginally in my opinion. Post 9/11, weaponization advocates have more political clout, playing on the fears of a “Space Pearl Harbor,” as the undersecretary of the Air Force, Peter B. Teets, did at a symposium in 2002.6 Today, the weaponization of space can be understood to extend beyond National Missile Defense (NMD) to include “exotic” weaponry, such as what are known as “Directed-energy weapons” that include lasers, high-powered microwaves, and particle beams, for both defensive and offensive purposes.7 In the international journal Space Policy, Patrick A. Salin wrote that we could consider the sanctity of space peace officially violated on June 19th, 1999, when a US Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) rocket destroyed a target missile in outer space.8 He argued that the militarization process has already begun within a new framework of privatization.9 One critical tenet of Marxism is the teleological theory which would suggest the space weaponization is inevitable because of capitalist expansion. The defense industry continues to produce armaments without consideration of how it may exacerbate security 4

concerns. Neorealism holds a similar principle, that an attack could occur at any moment because the international system is anarchic and consequently states are compelled to attain security. Thus most neorealist policy makers assume other states are gearing up to weaponize space as well. Thomas D. Bell, Lt Col, USAF, articulated well what many have said, that “the vulnerability (whether perceived or real) of United States space assets and those of our allies will inevitably drive the United States to weaponize space.”10 To determine the rationale of the US to weaponize space, we must look at the issue from two theoretical perspectives: neorealism and Marxism. Neorealism In international relations, neorealism asserts that states seek a power balance that maximizes their security. The weaponization of space is most often viewed as the logical extension of the military sphere in order to protect national security interests. Under classical realism however, power is the goal of states. Leaders are also presumed to have a dominant role in state policy, contrasted with states as the primary actors in neorealism. In 1961, Lyndon B. Johnson famously said “control of space means control of the world.”11 This was not a proposition for world domination though; rather it can be analyzed more accurately through the neorealist lens that perceived Soviet space secrecy and imperialist ambitions as a threat to the United States. 5

As Kenneth Waltz states, neorealism includes the notion of realpolitik but only insofar as states seek a reasonable amount of power to ensure security.12 Furthermore, in an anarchic world states must provide for their own security.13 It is therefore the prerogative of the US as world superpower and provider of global public goods to maximize its own power as it pertains to security. The current reservations of the US to embrace space weaponization fully can be explained by the neorealist notion of balance of power. As Waltz explains, states will try to gain an advantage without provoking other states into action.14 NMD proponents are pushing the limits of militarization and enemies and allies alike are responding. The potential ‘security dilemma’ that ensues is a flaw in this philosophy that critics point out and neorealists concede. Evidence of a potential new arms race can be seen by taking a look at China. In the book Space: The Frontiers of Modern Defense, Indian author K.K. Nair explains how the space mission of China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) entails two aspects: information support, and a battlefield aspect which corresponds to the US' 'counter-space operations.'15 Neorealists also contend that economic power can easily be transformed into military power through fungibility. Thus, regardless of whether or not China’s motives are economic or security based, it seems the US is not willing to take the chance of allowing China to rival the US in military supremacy. The US-China Economic 6

and Security Review Commission produced a report in 2006 that affirmed that China is pursing anti-satellite weaponry.16 The commission chairman, Larry Wortzel, boldly stated that “there's no doubt the Chinese will put weapons into space" with the intent of destroying US logistics and communications satellites.17 This explicit statement of the perceived threat lends heavily to the neorealist explanation of China’s (and other’s) military ambitions as a threat to the US security and interests. Neorealists are preoccupied with potential threats and the zero-sum nature of the international system. For the reasons of China’s economic growth, as well as its stated space aspirations, neorealists would predict the US to react by strengthening its space-based defenses. A group of neoconservative missile defense proponents, led by Donald Rumsfeld, have been painting China as a threat since the mid 1990s.18A specific example of neorealist paranoia fuelling the weapons in space regime is given by erroneous allegations that were made by The NY Times in 1998 regarding the sale of US satellite secrets to china.19 Once this fear was reified it irrevocably “changed the existing satellite export paradigm,” writes Joan Johnson-Freese in Space as a Strategic Asset.20 Under neorealism, this suspicion of other states encourages alliance behavior between states with mutual military interests. Thus, the pressure exerted on Canada by the US to subscribe to a broad missile defense program reflects this. However, Canada has 7

remained steadfast in the face of threat claims by the US and therefore neorealism as a policy is stopped at the US border, so to speak. However, Canada may also have other motives in this area. Foreign policy of the US (and Canada alike) can often be ascribed to many notable think tanks. A pro-NMD ‘documentary’ was recently released by the conservative D.C.-based think tank The Heritage Foundation. The propagandistic trailer is replete with all the glamour of a Hollywood action movie featuring stereotypical Islamic terrorists and ominous music with glorified military special effects. This is a perfect example of what Maj Howard D. Belote, USAF, is referring to when comments that the participants in the Air Force’s space weaponization debate tend to “ignore context and lapse into zealotry.”21 It is important to note that the Foundation was a leader in the conservative movement during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and influenced the SDI program.22 The documentary, titled 33 Minutes: Protecting America in the New Missile Age and released in March 2009, is more easily interpreted from a classical perspective as it assumes that states seek power and that aggression is natural. The website states that “We need to overcome the complacency of politicians, the spurious arguments of academics, and the narrow minded interests of government in order to defend Americans from this potential nuclear holocaust.”23 To this effect, neorealists like Waltz contend that overreaction is better than miscalculation because at worst 8

overreaction results in increased superfluous defense spending and perhaps some limited warfare, where as miscalculation can result in considerable strategic losses or direct conflict.24 That is good news for the defense contractors though. Neorealists recognize the vital role military technology plays25 but simply neglect the role that corporations play in the space weaponization process. This leads us to a Marxist analysis of the space weaponization regime. Marxism The second theoretical argument views space weaponization as a capitalist process that maintains and promotes itself through the enrichment of the global elite class. Classical Marxism places emphasis on privatization and capital accumulation through the exploitation of resources and labour as the means for the dominant class to rule. John Lovering writes, in Military Expenditure and the Restructuring of Capitalism, that Marxists see defense expenditure as providing governments with provisional solutions to inherent problems in capitalism such as under-consumption.26 He argues that disarmament could be prosperous in the short-term, but would compromise a “significant source of stability and growth.”27 The doctrine of space weaponization, therefore, in a classical Marxist sense, is an essential part of a continuing process of capital accumulation.28 In Taking Sovereignty Out of this World, Duvall and Havercroft argue that dominating space is a form of privatization of the commons 9

of outer space to the extent that it is “effectively colonized and ‘made safe’ for the capitalist interests that flow through it—primarily information services at this point in time.”29 The authors explain that through space weaponization the notion of sovereignty is transformed into a new global regime.30 They argue that sovereignty is being eroded and replaced by a new diffuse form comprised of national and supranational entities organized under “a single logic of rule” that they call “Empire.”31 They also challenge the neorealist assumption of sovereignty and anarchy as facts of international relations, arguing that sovereignty is socially constructed and constantly in flux.32 Beyond the general principles of Marxism the international relations versions of Marxist theory are a harder fit to this issue. Dependency theory is largely inapplicable without a stretch of the imagination because it is largely contingent on terrestrial relations and processes. Dependency theorists describe states as falling into a “core vs. periphery” dichotomy, where the global North exploits the global South. They suggest that the global bourgeoisie arose from a network of national bourgeoisies united in their defense of mutual interest in the world capitalist system.33 In this view, the exploitation of the South by the North is typically facilitated by monetary regimes such as the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. But would a dependency theorist really add space weapons to the list of instruments that the transnational capitalist class use to exploit the global South? It does 10

not seem to fit. However, the fact that the outer space is becoming a domain reserved for developed liberal nations, to which all other nations can only be clients, lends some credence to dependency theory. In world-systems theory, Immanuel Wallerstein adds a third category, the “semi-periphery,” that acts as both a liaison and buffer between the core and periphery as it is both “exploited and exploiter.”34 Wallerstein states that in world-empire the core states “concentrates [their] resources on controlling the military machine which can collect the tribute.”35 He states that one of the main mechanisms that has enforced stability in world-systems is the military in the hands of the dominant few.36 He also notes that the empirical evidence shows world-economies have been unstable in the past, often disintegrating or being assimiliated into world-empires. Because capitalism and a world-economy are two sides of the same coin, as he puts it, and the upshot of this relationship is a profit-maximizing objective, the weaponization of space could be seen as the beginnings of the teleological end of the world-state system. But beyond these points world-systems theory is too nebulous to make strong links with the US weaponization of space. The problem with applying world-systems theory or dependency theory to space -weaponization is that these so-called security measures do not fundamentally affect the world-economy system. 11

What space weaponization does is enrich the global capitalist class by profiting from the sale of the weapons and securing unimpeded commerce as well as enhancing the power of the state that sponsors the agenda. To this extent, the theory includes an element of realism in that states are considered important actors, but the relatively narrow application of space weapons still has little impact on the coresemi-periphery-periphery relationship. The agenda of space weaponization is better understood as a new form of imperialism under the Marxist theory of imperialist war. The idea, as it will be shown, is to maximize the asymmetrical military advantage of the US so as to avoid major imperialist war and promote global homogeneity indirectly through technological omnipotence. Lenin wrote about a natural congregation of capitalist forces into “cartels, syndicates and trusts” into a high stage of imperialism.37 Such a description bears semblance to the military-industrial-complex (MIC) and its functional role in international relations in terms of US interests. It is ironic that while the Marxist lens sheds light on the MIC, the constituents of the MIC serve their own interests by promoting neorealist thinking within the state because ensuring security means large defense spending. Lenin explained that capitalism tended to monopoly and that imperialism is this ultimate stage of capitalism.38 Thus, finance capital inevitably strives to extend its territory

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economically and geographically and conglomerate into a homogenous entity.39 From a Marxist perspective, the MIC can be seen as a means to facilitate the establishment of a transnational capitalist class insofar as the military apparatus defends the economic interests of the entire system.40 In Eisenhower’s farewell address, he famously warned about the “unwarranted influence” of the MIC.41 This was because of the nature of capitalist enterprises, not so much the nature of state behavior according to neorealism. Naturally, the threat from the MIC itself is not as easily dramatized, let alone visible, than the threat of an ICBM only “33 minutes” away, which is why superficially neorealism better explains the missile defense doctrine. But when you dig deeper you see that space weaponization is not really about missile defense. In an article in the International Socialist Review, scholar Noam Chomsky describes missile defense as a “small footnote” in the broader space weaponization agenda laid out in the Vision for 2020 document. The mission statement is, of course, "to protect US interests and investment."42 Chomsky writes that since poor countries would opt for anti-satellite weapons, rather than anti-missile, and the US needs satellites to operate the missile defense system, first-strike weapons in space are a requirement to achieve what the US calls “full-spectrum dominance.”43 He parallels naval armament a century ago with space weaponization today by how the British Navy was charged with 13

protecting British commercial interests in the 19th century.44 Also, US military expenditure laid the foundations for subsequent industries that the US would come to dominate for many years such as steel and automobile manufacturing.45 Thus, it is clear that space weaponization represents the perpetuation of the US imperative to remain at the forefront of technological innovation, in addition to protecting its current assets in space. Furthermore, a report called Global Trends 2015 predicts the widening economic division between “haves” and “have-nots.”46 The perseverance of this space militarization agenda is coincidental with globalization. Space weaponization is being sold in terms of physical security but it is really about an insurance policy for a global economic dominance of haves over have-nots. As Chomsky summarizes, globalization will increase in the “preferred sense meaning investor rights.”47 This militarization movement challenges the 1967 Outer Space Treaty that aims in part to protect outer space as a commons, free and equal for all, apart from state power.48 The stipulation to protect space from state power should, assuming parties abide by the treaty, argue against neorealist explanations that the state is the dominant actor. In privatizing space, satellite orbit positions are being parceled into a form of “real estate.”49 This has occurred because the control of space technology has been diffused between nations through transnational corporations (TNCs) such that Patrick Salin alludes to the US 14

Department of Commerce and US Department of State being on separate wavelengths.50 Joan Johnson-Freese also points out that this proliferation occurred despite export-control laws to contain it. This is an example of national political issues being subject to the interests of TNCs.51 Perhaps world-systems theory falls short because it is trying to reconcile terrestrial interstate relationships while space weaponization exists in a truly supranational dimension. To return to a classical Marxist tenet, in “commodity fetishism” commodities come to be imbued with intrinsic properties beyond their “use value.” In this sense, space weapons technology is mystified by a kind of commodity fetishism where the rational process of commoditization subordinates us to its state-of-the-art power.52 Because the vanguard of technological achievement has historically occurred mostly within the MIC, outside the sphere of control of the state, corporate drive combined with the “blind faith” of the state has led to the “research and development of destructive weaponry without fully acknowledging the consequences.”53 Political scientist David Grondin labelled this phenomenon in the title of his paper The US Religion of Technology in the Weaponization of Space. That defense corporations are typically not concerned with the geopolitical consequences of their products has been a defining feature of the MIC; increased conflict increases profits. This is illustrated by a book a former long time White House science advisor. 15

In The E-Bomb: How America's New Directed Energy Weapons Will Change the Way Wars Will Be Fought in the Future, J. Doulgas Beason, writes that directed-energy technology has “had its share of ‘snakeoil salesmen’” pushing the technology that wasn’t workable yet. Beason explains that these types of programs are receiving marginal funding but he strongly emphasizes their necessity claiming the inevitability of directed energy weapons, like the Space-Based-Laser (SBL) projects, being used on the battlefield.54 Grondin asserts that policy remains largely unaffected by academics and that the debate takes place mostly in secret among elites. Thus, he surmises that the stakes are indeed global rather than just for “national security”55 and therefore transcend the domestic security explanation. Conclusion Neorealist Kenneth Waltz acknowledges that theory is only intended to isolate a particular theme of overall reality.56 Thus, analyzing space weaponization strictly in a neorealist framework would completely neglect a large dimension of it. Marxism may likely better explain some of the dynamics of the war industry but the tenets of realism seem to have more prevalence in determining US foreign policy in space. Realist Hans Morgenthau criticizes Marxism stating that economic motives are only ephemeral and that they serve a political backdrop57 but as we have seen political and economic interests converge and are often considered intrinsically related. 16

Regardless, Marxism can be a useful explanation to the extent that as it explains the proliferation of technology in space as a capitalist pursuit. In analyzing the role of the military-industrial-complex, comparing neorealism and Marxism is like a “chicken-egg” dichotomy, insofar as the question is whether security threats prompt weapons proliferation, or profit-seeking encourages weapons proliferation which prompts a security dilemma. For this reason, only a hybrid of Marxist and neorealist elements can fully explain why the US weaponization of space regime persists. The shared sentiment between neorealists and Marxists of a teleological inevitability is a major factor in the permanent militarization process; neorealists view conflict as inevitable and Marxists view capitalist expansion as inevitable. The capitalist class has always benefitted from wars, whether it is in the defense business or through the opening of markets that often results from conflicts. In this sense, the weaponization of space agenda is reinforced by the respective theories to create a reciprocal relationship between the US and the MIC (between state and business). When combined with Grondin’s observation of the US’ fervent fetishization of technology, space weaponization can be seen as the final frontier of US ideology of ‘Manifest Destiny.’

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Endnotes:

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1

"Prevention of an Arms Race in Outer Space." Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space. <http://www.space4peace.org/unres.htm>. 2 Howell M. Estes III, Vision for 2020. (Peterson AFB, CO: US Space Command, 1997) 3 3 Howard D. Belote,. "The Weaponization of Space: It Doesn't Happen in a Vacuum ." Air & Space Power Journal 14.1 (2000). <http://www.airpower.maxwell.af.mil/airchronicles/apj/apj00/spr00/belote.htm>. 4 Ibid. 5 Ibid. 6 Bentley B. Rayburn, Counterspace Operations - Air Force Doctrine Document 2-2.1. Maxwell AFB, AL: US Air Force, 2004. viii 7 Leonard David, "SPACE.com -- E-Weapons: Directed Energy Warfare In The 21st Century." Space.com. 11 Jan. 2006. 23 Mar. 2009 <http://www.space.com/businesstechnology/060111_eweapons.html>. 8 Patrick A. Salin, "Privatization and militarization in the space business environment." Space Policy 17.1 (2001): 19-26. 16 Mar. 2009 <http://www.elsevier.com/locate/spacepol>. 19 9 Ibid. 10 Thomas D. Bell, “Weaponization Of Space: Understanding Strategic and Technological Inevitabilities." Center for Strategy and Technology 1.6 (1999): 1-36. 16 Mar. 2009 <http://www.stormingmedia.us/13/1355/A135524.html>. 17 11 Arnaud de Borchgrave, "Energy emergency." The Washington Times 19 Sep. 2005. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.csis.org/media/csis/press/050919_de_borchgrave_twt.pdf>. 12 Kenneth N. Waltz, "The Origins of War in Neorealist Theory." Journal of Interdisciplinary History 18.4 (1988): 615-628. 16 Mar. 2009 <http://www.jstor.org/stable/204817>. 616 13 Waltz 619. 14 Waltz 622. 15 Kiran Krishan Nair, Space: The Frontiers of Modern Defence. New Delhi, India: KnowledgeWorld, 2006. <http://books.google.ca/books?id=ZBXL1i-n6UAC#reviews_anchor>. 16 Tom Barry, "The Militarization of Space and US Global Dominance: the China Connection." Japan Focus. <http://www.japanfocus.org/products/details/2287>. (Online only: no issue details) 17 Ibid. 18 Johnson-Freese, Joan. Space as a Strategic Asset. Columbia: Columbia University Press, 2007. 149 19 Ibid. 143. 20 Ibid. 144. 21 Belote. 22 Jacob Weisberg, "Happy Birthday Heritage Foundation." Slate Magazine. 9 Jan. 1998. 23 Mar. 2009 <http://www.slate.com/id/2299/>. 23 "Missile Defense - 33 Minutes Overview." The Heritage Foundation - Conservative Policy Research and Analysis. 23 Mar. 2009 <http://www.heritage.org/33-minutes/overview.htm>. 24 Waltz 623. 25 Ibid. 625. 26 John Lovering, "Military Expenditure and the Restructuring of Capitalism." Cambridge Journal of Economics 14 (1990): 454 27 Ibid. 28 Raymond Duvall and Jonathan Havercroft, "Taking Sovereignty Out of This World: Space Weaponization and the Production of Late-Modern Political Subjects" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association, Town & Country Resort and Convention Center, San Diego, California, USA, Mar 22, 2006 Online <PDF>. 1-26. 2009-02-11 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p98680_index.html>. 14 29 Ibid. 11. 30 Ibid. 7. 31 Ibid. 32 Ibid. 33 William I. Robinson and Jerry Harris "Towards A Global Ruling Class? Globalization and the Transnational Capitalist Class." Science & Society 64.1 (2000). 2 34 Immanuel Wallerstein, “The Rise and Future Demise of the World Capitalist System:

Concepts for Comparative Analysis.” Karen A. Mingst, Jack L. Snyder. Essential Readings in World Politics. 3rd Ed. (New York: W.W. Norton & Company) 143 35 Ibid. 36 Ibid. 37 Vladimir I. Lenin, “From Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism.” Karen A. Mingst, Jack L. Snyder. Essential Readings in World Politics. 3rd Ed (New York: W.W. Norton & Company) 22 38 Ibid. 39 Ibid. 21. 40 Robinson 2. 41 Dwight D. Eisenhower, "Dwight D. Eisenhower -- Farewell Address." American Rhetoric: The Power of Oratory in the United States. 23 Mar. 2009 <http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/dwightdeisenhowerfarewell.html>. 42 Estes III 3. 43 Chomsky, Noam. "Militarizing Space "to Protect US Interests and Investment"." International Socialist Review 1.19 (2001). 16 Mar. 2009 <http://www.isreview.org/issues/19/NoamChomsky.shtml>. 44 Ibid. 45 Ibid 46 Ibid 47 Ibid 48 Duvall and Havercroft 14. 49 Ibid. 15. 50 Salin 19. 51 Johnson-Freese 142. 52 Duvall and Havercroft 24. 53 David Grondin, "The US Religion of Technology in the Weaponization of Outer Space ? A Case for Technological Atheism and Resisting Space War" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Studies Association 48th Annual Convention, Hilton Chicago, CHICAGO, IL, USA, Feb 28, 2007. 2009-02-04 <http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p178946_index.html>. 8. 54 David. 55 Grondin 8. 56 Waltz 615. 57 Morgenthau 59.

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