“Space” is a social construction. It is an empty canvas where we can project images of warfare or peaceful alternatives. Their representation of space as a battlefield is driven by a worldview where technology guides politics. Bormann, 06 ISA Conference in San Diego, March 22-25, 2006 Panel on ‘Reading Outer Space’ Dr Natalie Bormann Visiting Assistant Professor The Global Security Program Watson Institute Brown University The Lost Dimension? A Virilian reading of Outer Space Weaponization
To begin with, the concept of space does not lie in space; but space is constituted ‘from the outside’. It is ‘what we (can) know about space’ and how a space is understood and framed at any given time which provides us with one reality of that space. In this sense, Outer Space as a space does never pre-exist independently and is never explored nor innovated; it is always constituted through that which it precedes (and through that which always-already exists).11 Henry Lefebvre, for instance, speaks of the production of space, whereby space becomes a location of a certain type through its association with certain practices, rituals, and representations. He uses the example of a church which gains meaning through its invention as a place of faith (space is thus at once a precondition as much as a result of society and its practices).12 While Virilio may not necessarily speak of a production of space along these lines, he would certainly agree that information and data about something matters more than that which composes something.13 Virilio goes as far as to claim that information about a space will matter exclusively leading to a disappearance of matter and physicality all together. As such, space will stop having a ‘location’ on its own.14 Michel de Certeau makes a vital point in this regard: The importance of abstract (non-fixed, non-static) space is not only that it cannot be inhabited in any permanent way but moreover that it makes possible a certain kind of action, and embodies a certain kind of practice.15 It is in this sense and at this juncture that I suggest we must begin when contemplating about Outer Space and its weaponization. Outer Space must be seen, and to use Virilio’s term, as a ‘disembodied space’ with no fixed and static coordinates. It follows from here, then, that two questions emerge; first, what dominant information about Outer Space can we read, and second, how has this information become dominant? What will become clear in the process of addressing these questions is that what we get to know about the space of Outer Space – our conception - is dominated by information provided through the possibilities of military technology. A Spatiality of Outer Space ‘I think it’s there that things change. In other words, one realizes at what point, in Space, the view reveals what is most essential. Other than the view, there is no physical or physiological contact. No hearing, no feeling in the sense of touching materials, with the exception of an actual Moon landing. Thus, the conquest of space, of Outer Space – isn’t it more the conquest of the image of Space?’16‘space is accidental’17 Roger Handberg once wrote that ‘Space is first of all a place or location’ and hence, to contemplate Space simply in strategic and military terms would be disingenuous.18 And clearly, there is no denying the centrality of spatiality and spatial narratives in the forging of a weaponization of Outer Space. The articulation of certain boundary-producing imageries in the construction of legitimacy for deploying weapons in orbit has served to create a particular understanding of that which purports a response: a perpetuate crisis and the possibility of permanent war in Outer Space. Space has become an opportunity, a new frontier of competition, a canvas whereupon the imaginary of confrontation and its corresponding strategy of deploying Space weapons can be projected. Former US Secretary of State Dean Rusk put it aptly in his reaction to US and Soviet nuclear weapons tests in Space when he warned that ‘there is an increasing danger that outer space will become man’s newest battlefield’.19 The representation of a ‘battlefield’ in Space is contingent in our reading of key documents; for instance, in 2001, the US Space Commission evoked the powerful image that the US is an ‘attractive candidate for another Pearl Harbor’ in Space, making the case that weapons in Space were needed to counter perceived US vulnerabilities in form of an attack on a virtual US territory and habitat in orbit. Further examples for the ways in which claims to spatiality are deeply implicated in the forging of US Space weaponization abound; they range from mapping Outer Space as a ‘final frontier’, the ‘ultimate high ground’, or a space that follows ‘the rules of the road’. One finds these discourses generally embedded within the logic of the our/their space nexus coupled with the attributes of defending our space versus an offending other that allow for the drawing of the boundaries around space: • In 2004, US Strategic Command contemplated that ‘the first step in Space control is identifying exactly what’s in orbit around the Earth, who it belongs to, and its mission.21 • It further claims that Space control involves the ability to ‘ensure our use of space while denying the use to our adversaries’22 • The National Space Policy of 1996 proposes the need to assure that ‘hostile forces cannot prevent our use of space23 [...]How does this matter? I want to argue that the task of uncovering these constructions of spatiality, the meaning-giving of the ‘material’ as reality, is vital for the direction Space policies have taken (and will continue to take). The construction of a space of a certain kind is what precedes its weaponization; it is what makes it common-sensical. If we assume the construction of space, as opposed to the exploration of space, then we need to ask: what has informed this process?
Their faith in the ability of technology to provide security reflects a logic of total domination over the planet that renders us all into disposable standing reserve, this risks extinction.
Bacon thought of the new scientific method not merely as way of achieving a purer access to truth and epistemological certainty, but as liberating a new power that would enable the creation of a new kind of Man. He opened the Novum Organum with the statement that 'knowledge and human power are synonymous', and later wrote of his 'determination...to lay a firmer foundation, and extend to a greater distance the boundaries of human power and dignity'.67 In a revealing and highly negative comparison between 'men's lives in the most polished countries of Europe and in any wild and barbarous region of the new Indies' -- one that echoes in advance Kissinger's distinction between post-and pre-Newtonian cultures -- Bacon set out what was at stake in the advancement of empirical science: anyone making this comparison, he remarked, 'will think it so great, that man may be said to be a god unto man'.68 We may be forgiven for blinking, but in Bacon's thought 'man' was indeed in the process of stealing a new fire from the heavens and seizing God's power over the world for itself. Not only would the new empirical science lead to 'an improvement of mankind's estate, and an increase in their power over nature', but would reverse the primordial humiliation of the Fall of Adam: For man, by the fall, lost at once his state of innocence, and his empire over creation, both of which can be partially recovered even in this life, the first by religion and faith, the second by the arts and sciences. For creation did not become entirely and utterly rebellious by the curse, but in consequence of the Divine decree, 'in the sweat of thy brow thou shalt eat bread'; she is now compelled by our labours (not assuredly by our disputes or magical ceremonies) at length to afford mankind in some degree his bread...69 There is a breathtaking, world-creating hubris in this statement -- one that, in many ways, came to characterise western modernity itself, and which is easily recognisable in a generation of modern technocrats like Kissinger. The Fall of Adam was the Judeo-Christian West's primal creation myth, one that marked humankind as flawed and humbled before God, condemned to hardship and ambivalence. Bacon forecast here a return to Eden, but one of man's own making. This truly was the death of God, of putting man into God's place, and no pious appeals to the continuity or guidance of faith could disguise the awesome epistemological violence which now subordinated creation to man. Bacon indeed argued that inventions are 'new creations and imitations of divine works'. As such, there is nothing but good in science: 'the introduction of great inventions is the most distinguished of human actions...inventions are a blessing and a benefit without injuring or afflicting any'.70 And what would be mankind's 'bread', the rewards of its new 'empire over creation'? If the new method and invention brought modern medicine, social welfare, sanitation, communications, education and comfort, it also enabled the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust and two world wars; napalm, the B52, the hydrogen bomb, the Kalashnikov rifle and military strategy. Indeed some of the 20th Century's most far-reaching inventions -- radar, television, rocketry, computing, communications, jet aircraft, the Internet -- would be the product of drives for national security and militarisation. Even the inventions Bacon thought so marvellous and transformative -- printing, gunpowder and the compass -- brought in their wake upheaval and tragedy: printing, dogma and bureaucracy; gunpowder, the rifle and the artillery battery; navigation, slavery and the genocide of indigenous peoples. In short, the legacy of the new empirical science would be ambivalence as much as certainty; degradation as much as enlightenment; the destruction of nature as much as its utilisation. If Bacon could not reasonably be expected to foresee many of these developments, the idea that scientific and technological progress could be destructive did occur to him. However it was an anxiety he summarily dismissed: ...let none be alarmed at the objection of the arts and sciences becoming depraved to malevolent or luxurious purposes and the like, for the same can be said of every worldly good; talent, courage, strength, beauty, riches, light itself...Only let mankind regain their rights over nature, assigned to them by the gift of God, and obtain that power, whose exercise will be governed by right reason and true religion.71 By the mid-Twentieth Century, after the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, such fears could no longer be so easily wished away, as the physicist and scientific director of the Manhattan Project, J. Robert Oppenheimer recognised. He said in a 1947 lecture: We felt a particularly intimate responsibility for suggesting, for supporting and in the end in large measure achieving the realization of atomic weapons...In some sort of crude sense which no vulgarity, no humor, no over-statement can quite extinguish, the physicists have known sin, and this is a knowledge they cannot lose. Adam had fallen once more, but into a world which refused to acknowledge its renewed intimacy with contingency and evil. Man's empire over creation -- his discovery of the innermost secrets of matter and energy, of the fires that fuelled the stars -- had not 'enhanced human power and dignity' as Bacon claimed, but instead brought destruction and horror. Scientific powers that had been consciously applied in the defence of life and in the hope of its betterment now threatened its total and absolute destruction. This would not prevent a legion of scientists, soldiers and national security policymakers later attempting to apply Bacon's faith in invention and Descartes' faith in mathematics to make of the Bomb a rational weapon. Oppenheimer -- who resolutely opposed the development of the hydrogen bomb -- understood what the strategists could not: that the weapons resisted control, resisted utility, that 'with the release of atomic energy quite revolutionary changes had occurred in the techniques of warfare'.73 Yet Bacon's legacy, one deeply imprinted on the strategists, was his view that truth and utility are 'perfectly identical'.74 In 1947 Oppenheimer had clung to the hope that 'knowledge is good...it seems hard to live any other way than thinking it was better to know something than not to know it; and the more you know, the better'; by 1960 he felt that 'terror attaches to new knowledge. It has an unmooring quality; it finds men unprepared to deal with it.' Martin Heidegger questioned this mapping of natural science onto the social world in his essays on technology -- which, as 'machine', has been so crucial to modern strategic and geopolitical thought as an image of perfect function and order and a powerful tool of intervention. He commented that, given that modern technology 'employs exact physical science...the deceptive illusion arises that modern technology is applied physical science'.76 Yet as the essays and speeches of Oppenheimer attest, technology and its relation to science, society and war cannot be reduced to a noiseless series of translations of science for politics, knowledge for force, or force for good. Instead, Oppenheimer saw a process frustrated by roadblocks and ruptured by irony; in his view there was no smooth, unproblematic translation of scientific truth into social truth, and technology was not its vehicle. Rather his comments raise profound and painful ethical questions that resonate with terror and uncertainty. Yet this has not prevented technology becoming a potent object of desire, not merely as an instrument of power but as a promise and conduit of certainty itself. In the minds of too many rational soldiers, strategists and policymakers, technology brings with it the truth of its enabling science and spreads it over the world. It turns epistemological certainty into political certainty; it turns control over 'facts' into control over the earth. Heidegger's insights into this phenomena I find especially telling and disturbing -- because they underline the ontological force of the instrumental view of politics. In The Question Concerning Technology, Heidegger's striking argument was that in the modernising West technology is not merely a tool, a 'means to an end'. Rather technology has become a governing image of the modern universe, one that has come to order, limit and define human existence as a 'calculable coherence of forces' and a 'standing reserve' of energy. Heidegger wrote: 'the threat to man does not come in the first instance from the potentially lethal machines and apparatus of technology. The actual threat has already affected man in his essence.' This process Heidegger calls 'Enframing' and through it the scientific mind demands that 'nature reports itself in some way or other that is identifiable through calculation and remains orderable as a system of information'. Man is not a being who makes and uses machines as means, choosing and limiting their impact on the world for his ends; rather man has imagined the world as a machine and humanity everywhere becomes trapped within its logic. Man, he writes, 'comes to the very brink of a precipitous fall...where he himself will have to be taken as standing-reserve. Meanwhile Man, precisely as the one so threatened, exalts himself to the posture of lord of the earth.'78 Technological man not only becomes the name for a project of lordship and mastery over the earth, but incorporates humanity within this project as a calculable resource. In strategy, warfare and geopolitics human bodies, actions and aspirations are caught, transformed and perverted by such calculating, enframing reason: human lives are reduced to tools, obstacles, useful or obstinate matter.
Our alternative is to reject the affirmative and their representations of the technological need to securitize space.
Representations matter uniquely in the context of their affirmative: allowing discourses of technological inevitability to replace political dialogue creates conditions for a space war. Re-framing space politics requires challenging the rhetoric used to justify policies.
Grondin, 06 David Grondin Assistant Professor, School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa (as of July 2006) Paper presented at the ISA Convention, San Diego March 25, 2006 Panel “Reading Outer Space I: The International Politics of Outer Space - Approaches and Themes” THE (POWER) POLITICS OF SPACE: THE US ASTROPOLITICAL DISCOURSE OF GLOBAL DOMINANCE IN THE WAR ON TERROR
Indeed, we have no way of knowing how other state leaders and non-state agents will react to US spatial policy and to a path of weaponization. The security dilemma or a new global arms race in space remain social constructions and are not automatic responses to a course of action taken by the US state. Will it be like Roger Handberg fears: that the “[w]eaponization of space is the signal for the next arms race, one that may start slow but inevitably will speed up as other states reject the US claim to permanent dominance?” (Handberg 2004: 88) Indeed, Handberg makes lots of sense to me when he asserts that a healthy skepticism must be exercised when drastic changes in existing policy positions are considered, especially policies which have not yet failed. Too often, in American defense debates, technology trumps ‘mere politics’ with often-unanticipated consequences. The security dilemma is not just an obscure academic concept but one that reflects real possibilities in terms of outcomes. […] There is an irony in that the analyses assume, especially since the advent of the George W. Bush administration, that such military space activities, including weaponization, will be approved. Approval may come but resources may not, given the administration’s penchant for tax cuts. Sustaining a level of resource commitment necessary to maintain the force levels assumed here is questionable in the absence of an explicit and very visible threat (Handberg 2004: 88). Or will it rather be like the space warriors expect, Dolman and Lambakis especially, that there is an opportunity to be grasped by the US that will make other actors of the global arena accept an American dominance in space? In my mind, such view is to be resisted at all costs. In fact, one must be aware that behind all the rhetoric for space weaponization and the “threat game”, other power considerations still pull much weight – and the spectre of a Cold War military-industrial complex is still very much alive. As Lambakis bluntly puts it: “Although it still must guard against the transfer of critical military technologies, capitalism ought to be set loose to advance the development of satellite technologies and services (including imagery services), which would allow US industry to play its strength – technological innovation and application – which in turn would provide the United States significant technologies advantages in the years ahead” (Lambakis 2001: 281; original emphasis).
Freedom of Space, Space control, and the Technological
As space is conceived as a common medium, the principle of the freedom of space lasts as long as there is no will to take a step further – which is what space warriors recommend. As they acknowledge, many reasons may motivate a state to develop “capabilities to control, if not dominate or claim ownership over, space orbits” (Lambakis 2001: 86; original emphasis). This line of argument is usually linked to technological capacities. By asserting that other countries operate in Space, that conflicts are “natural” between humans – which brings the obvious “so why would it be different in Space” – technologies of power take the lead and one is left with devising what space-control strategy will be best and what one wants “to control, for how long, and for what purposes?/ (Lambakis 2001: 281). And in a context where one portrays the situation as one where US aerospace industry is held back by the rest of the world only for fear of potential not guaranteed conflicts that will evolve into Space warfighting because of a renewed arms race (Lambakis 2001: 282), the claim to let technology drive the policy and the political is not disinterested – albeit ill-advised – and definitely not a sure bet. For space warriors such as Dolmnan and Lambakis, space weaponization then appears not to be all related to the security issue but also very much to the maintenance of a strong defense and aerospace industry. The technological takes over as the political is eclipsed by the military professionals. In effect, for space warriors, because of national security, “if a determination is made that space weapons would improve national security, further analysis would be required to map out a path to take to introduce these tools in the arsenal and military strategy and a time line from which to plan” (Lambakis 2001: 282). Contrary to US astropolitical analysts, I find myself at fault with the logic of national security and securitization of space that drives US governmentality, especially with regard to Outer Space. I do not believe that arms control is given a fair trial by its opponents or even by some of its main defenders in US astropolitical discourse. For me, the security game is what seems so scary; and if we consider the one assumption of an astropolitical argument such as that of Lambakis that because of the 9/11 context, “one thing is certain – we will not be able to bludgeon our enemies into cooperation. For those times, the United States needs to have in place more assertive means and doctrines to counter hostiles activities in space” (Lambakis 2001: 282; my emphasis). When people are certain and need enemies to develop one strategy, then maybe some questions have not been raised. There are “unknowns” and we cannot be sure of how the events will unfold if the US goes further along a path to space weaponization. In any case, it gets even more problematic when security is trumped with technology for there is no way – so it seems – to argue against the desire of global (read absolute) security, especially when it comes from the strongest of power. You are brought back to the realities of the global homeland security state. One is doomed to either accept the logic of terror – that inexorably goes with the logic of global security – or reject it.I choose the latter.
CONCLUSION: THE SECURITIZATION AND AMERICANIZATION OF SPACE
This paper allowed me to address how the frontiers of the US are redefined by the War on Terror as it relates to the US strategic thinking on Outer Space. What conditions of possibility does 9/11 bring for US astropolitical discourse that were not already there? This inquiry leads me directly to reconsider the securitization and reterritorialization
project of the “last frontier”, that is the attempt to secure Outer Space as an American space.
It is important to rethink the push for space weaponization and its politics in light of the context of the US Global War on Terror (GWOT), which produced a new security thinking towards the “homeland” – a homeland strategy of security, a military doctrine of pre- emption/prevention and a reterritorialization of American frontiers and global power. Outer Space concerns, apparently, “the outer frontiers of national security policy, where technology and grand strategy meet” (Krepon 2003). Within the context of the War on Terror, where US strategic discourse sees a global terrorist threat as being ever possible, it seems that there can be no exception for Space.It is even done preventively as a secured space while Others do not exist yet in Space (in fact, they do, with the International Space Station; but that’s another story…). In this spatial inscription of securitization of the American identity in Space, the frontiers of the homeland are made global and are secured through a representation of dangers (with the exception of debris in Space which they do not categorize as “dangers”). This familiar approach to territory and space is inscribed in the identity politics of the US, a moral practice based on spatial exclusion of Others deemed threatening to secure the American Self (Campbell 1998 ; Shapiro 1999). By focusing on the Rumsfeld 2001 Space Commission for the Management of Space in the national security strategy, one sees the application of the same reading that would later come with the War on Terror. To that effect, a terrorist group or rogue state might try to hinder US spatial assets or those of its allies on which the US depends militarily and economically. In its 2004 National Military Stragegy, the US thus reaffirmed with force its will to constitute a global information grid and achieve a full spectrum-dominance in military matters. The US therefore wants to prevent any threat in Outer Space and protect its spatial activities and that of its allies. Informed by the events of 9/11, space warriors, such as Dolman or Lambakis, criticize opponents of a US policy for space weaponization as being stuck in a Cold War mindset. They believe a strategy of pre-emption and a resolve not to wait for the next “Pearl Harbor”, whether in space, on Earth or in the cyberspace is necessary and that the US must really be prepared to defend its (global) homeland: “How else can one explain [a] statement [such as] ‘as long as we remain vulnerable and so accessible to our adversaries, their incentives to attack us in space are likely to remain quite low’? In the post-September 11 world, events have underscored that weakness entices those who would do us harms and vulnerability provokes those who hate us. We need fresh thinking” (Lambakis 2003: 118). Space was seen as a sanctuary during the Cold War. But because of the context of the War on Terror, the US now seems to be ready to go against the second Article of the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 that stipulates that “Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, orby any other means”, the treaty which set out the principle that Space is to be used for “the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind” (Article 1). In effect, since 2001, the US wished to be the one responsible for setting new rules in Outer Space and for creating the conditions of its military dominance of Space. For instance, the merger of the US Space Command with the Strategic Command in January 2004 stems from this logic that wishes Space operations to be integrated in all domains of US military power. Because the US still possesses control over much of the information gathering in Space, it is interested in securitizing and Americanizing the “last frontier”, especially in the context of the War on Terror. As it stands, the US neoliberal geopolitics discourse of the Bush Administration on Space power still leads to Space weaponization. US sovereignty is placed as higher than any other forms of rule and the US prepares itself militarily, just in case Outer Space would turn into a battlefield. In Donald Rumsfeld’s words: “Our goal is not to bring war into space, but rather to defend against those who would” (Rumsfeld, quoted in Waldrop 2005 : 39). This participates in the discourse of a global security state that sees Outer Space as the most “global” of space. “Insofar as the weaponization of space represents the ‘cutting edge’ and highest ambitions of military primacy, it also represents the height of this folly” (Huntley 2005: 83). If we consider that political rhetoric creates political reality that may serve as bases for decisions, it appears fundamental to assess how the US wishes to securitize Outer Space with its will to achieve full-spectrum dominance in all battlespaces, as stated in the 2004 and 1997 National Military Strategies. Deeply anchored in the War on Terror cartography, where 9/11 serves as the ultimate justification since “one must prepare militarily for the worst since the worst has happened” (or so it goes), the US places itself in a state of insecurity by saying that even if no one may inflict them casualty in Space, nothing can guarantee that it will not happen in the future. This is why they prefer to try this likelihood and securitize Outer Space as part of the homeland security strategy. The paradox of the securitization and Americanization of Outer Space is that it could lead to its very opposite by allowing space weaponization to still be possible, if not inevitable.