Sunday, February 29, 2004
Imperial Capabilities

The article by David Marquand contained a large flaw. Marquand assumed that the rise of a multipolar world is inevitable and that the United States, like all former empires, will usher in its rivals through some geopolitical 'hidden hand'. However, the advantages that the United States holds over any potential rivals in terms of economic power and strategic influence is bound to increase.

The United States understands that the first power to militarise and control the immediate low to high earth orbits, on which surveillance and communications depends, will gain a 'first mover advantage' that no other power could compete with. That is why the United States Air Force published a report, the Transformation Flight Plan, on the steps needed to command space over the next ten to fifteen years in November 2003. This document is treated in more detail at Winds of Change.

Released in November, the report makes U.S. dominance of the heavens a top Pentagon priority in the new century. And it runs through dozens of research programs designed to ensure that America can never be challenged in orbit -- from anti-satellite lasers to weapons that "would provide the capability to strike ground targets anywhere in the world from space."

Defensetech notes that some analysts fear an arms race in space but, given the dominance of the United States in this area, it is unlikely that any other power could compete. An alphabetical listing of the USAF's wants can be found at

This wishlist is an indication of the importance of the 'high frontier'. American dominance of this regionis not inevitable and the costs may be too great for any one power to bear. If they were to achieve this, then US hegemony would maintain itself into the middle of the 21st Century and perhaps beyond.

How does this affect Britain? Perhaps not too badly, since we would be in the same boat as everyone else. A more searching question is how the US militarisation of space would affect private enterprise. Would they view such activities as a threat or as an American preserve? Are such developments inimical to any private sector space programme sourced in Britain?

(22.58, February 29th 2004)


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