the dawn of a new arms race - 09/10/08

From Brent on October 9th, 2008:

Even you, as a Canadian that is extremely interested in american politics, wasn't aware of Obama's blatant refusal to have any kind of debates or town hall meetings prior to the conventions, or McCain's desire for Nuclear disarmament, and I don't think you knew much about McCain's green ambitions either (McCain-Lieberman for cap and trade). So how straightforward really is the significance of the foreign polls, when people are so ill-informed.

That is fair, but I did say that this was a superficial point and that I didn't agree with it for those reasons. I don't think either candidate will bring about any major change, but the appearance to the rest of the world of a democrat of mixed race as president after 8 years of bush comes as no surprise to be popular. It's too bad for McCain because the deck is already stacked against him, just being an old, white, republican following eight years of the very unpopular Bush.

Now, regarding the space race. I'm sending the following quote from an interview with Noam Chomsky:

Noam Chomsky:

Take what's called the Missile Defense Program, which I think is mislabeled. It's actually a "militarization of space" program. The missile defense component is a minor feature that nobody takes very seriously. Nobody really believes that the US is trying to protect itself from North Korea. That's not serious. But the militarization of space is quite serious. Like a lot of Bush's policies, this one goes back to the Clinton period, but it's being enhanced. We are looking at the extension of military force from armies, to navies, to the air and now to outer space. You know, the development of space technology, including space warfare today, is similar in its technological-industrial significance to the development of navies a hundred years ago. If you look at say, England and Germany a century ago, which had the most advanced navies then, they were dealing with extremely tricky technological problems. Putting a huge gun on a moving platform and ensuring that it could hit another moving target was one of the hardest technical problems of the early twentieth century.

In fact, Clinton-era publications of the US Space Command describe control over space as a parallel to control over the oceans a century ago. Then, countries built navies to protect and enhance their power in commercial and strategic interests. Today, the militarization of space is intended to protect US investments and commercial interest and US hegemony around the world.


It's well known that the militarization of space is both extremely hazardous and easily avoidable. It would be possible to terminate it right now, before it even begins. Why isn't this happening?

Noam Chomsky:

We're looking at the dawn of a new arms race. For example, Germany technically opposes the US space militarization program, but is bound to get involved. Otherwise it will be left behind in the development of advanced technology. Germany understands that very well. The US understands it too, and they fully expect that Germany and other countries that they want on board will go along with the program. The Bush Administration recognizes that US power is so overwhelming that it can't really be opposed, even if countries object to US actions.

In fact, the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 bans militarization. Potential adversaries of the US, and even its allies, are so far behind that these countries are very interested in maintaining the treaty. Europe and the rest of the world want a strong reaffirmation of the Treaty and the US is unilaterally trying to derail it. Termination of the treaty would mean that the US could develop satellite weapons, put offensive weapons in space. It would probably mean using nuclear power in space. All of this leads to some very dangerous scenarios, including destruction of the species.


The Outer Space Treaty is one of many international agreements that the Bush Administration has violated or terminated. What's the logic behind this trend?

Noam Chomsky:

It's actually quite rational. Take the Kyoto Protocol. Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic.

Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational. Because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational.


To you, sir.

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