Last week, amid the outcry against grotesque in humanity at the Mexican border, President Trump – how those two words still sit so uneasily together, so incongruously! – ordered the Department of Defence and the Pentagon to create a sixth branch of the US Military he called Space Force. Its purpose? To make America great again beyond the ionosphere, out there in the universe. Another branch of the military? It does sound like the weaponization of space, doesn’t it? Well, a very clever East Indian fellow, whose name old age currently prevents from recalling, drafted the International Law governing outer space, and among the many clauses in this law, approved by the UN, is the prohibition of weapons there. It also declares all off-world bodies, moons, asteroids, planets, international territory, whose resources, if any, belong to the world as a whole. This may sound chauvinistic to any Venusians or Martians looking on, but from our point of view it certifies the solar system, the galaxy, and indeed everything else, as the communal property of our planet, the one presumed to be discovering everything. It’s not unreasonable, and won’t be until someone else comes along. Possibly no one has told Trump, and you can be certain he’s never read about it himself, that the Reagan-era Strategic Defence Initiative, popularly known as Star Wars, was in fact a sham designed to spook the erstwhile Soviet Union into throwing in the towel. That and an undermining of the economy by means of luring them into Afghanistan actually worked. The Soviet Union was bankrupted by trying to keep up with American financial exceptionalism, and the glorious age of Putin was born. Star Wars was a theoretical system of “death-star” satellites capable of shooting any incoming hostile missiles out of the middle air long before they reached America. Digital videos of the whole kit and caboodle looked very sci-fi and effective, as satellites zapped away at incoming threats left, right and centre, the lasers terminating old-fashioned missiles the way they do in video games. The trouble was that this in itself was a video game. The Pentagon of course never bothered to announce that the SDI was indeed a marvellous idea, but also one so expensive that the entire world together couldn’t afford it. Better dead than bankrupt was the message. But Russia and China believed SDI was in the works, and, unsurprisingly, thirty years later both of America’s eternal foes have rather pitiful versions of “death-star” satellites that can, or sometimes can in publicized tests, zap the satellites that pry into secretive doings on their stretches of earth or threaten their own wastelands of space junk. You can’t have this coercion going on, can you? Ergo: Space Force.
Let us theoretically posit that the UN’s Security Council is a monstrous aberration that negates the purpose of the entire rather useless organization. It’s just an hypothesis. So why is it that members of this Security Council always include Russia, China and America, with lesser, very grateful nations given a brief peek at what the big boys do? And what those big boys do – let’s call them RAC – is whatever the fuck they like. If criticized at all, it is by fellow big boys. All three of them have now broken space law, and who is calling for punitive measures? Perhaps no one? At least the international outrage is so muted that this latest American response – always belligerent – is… Space Force, war in outer space, more shame for this planet, if that is anyone else is watching. No outcry so far, no gnashing of UN teeth, probably because 95 percent of the planet views space exploration in much the same way as it views immortality. Yet for the rest of us the weaponization of space is very real, and a very real threat on the same level as the race for atomic weapons. The testing of “death-star” satellites way up there in the endless night will have unpredictable effects down here, from the disruption of telecommunications and data storage systems to the ever-more-likely event of space junk, a few tons of scrap metal, hurtling down to land in your kiddie park or wherever. The consequences of an actual shooting war up there are unthinkable.
Yet there he is, Space-Admiral Trump, the uniform tight, muscle-defining, as he salutes another platoon of space warriors on their way to do battle with Darth Putin’s scaly scum or the Beijingons. And no one objects? And no one points out that this is in fact illegal? Let the facts be facts, and life the thing it can, by all means, but don’t see yourselves as innocent bystanders when you can’t be bothered to rebel against monstrosity when it rears up on your watch. If we aren’t prepared to die for certain principles we have no principles at all.