Congested & Contested: Space Wars Are Upon Us

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When the Pentagon’s think tank, the RAND corporation, publishes a study it’s worth paying attention. Remarkable in their prescience, RAND reports accurately predicted the Ukraine war and the Iraq war

Consider, for instance, their recent study of what Chinese and Russian primary sources had to say about 10 key events in the U.S. space program 1985-2011. The authors described how the U.S. had others on the planet riled up by

the establishment of the U.S. Space Force in 2019, and multiple policy and warfighting documents have rapidly followed. Given this activity and the concerns raised in domestic and international fora[sic] regarding the increasingly congested and contested nature of space, there has been surprisingly little open-source analysis of Chinese and Russian perceptions of these developments. [emphasis mine]

Findings included that neither Russia nor China appears to believe U.S. space programs are not military in nature (no kidding), and that the U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty in 2002 was viewed by both as a turning point after which a more aggressive stance was evident

Here’s the list of all the events for which reactions were collected:

• Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) (1983) and U.S. Space Command creation (1985) 

• President Bill Clinton’s National Space Policy (1996) 

• Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL) test (1997) 

• Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and 

Organization (“Rumsfeld Commission”) (2001) 

• U.S. withdrawal from Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty (2002) 

• U.S. Air Force (USAF) Counterspace Operations doctrine (2004) 

• President George W. Bush’s National Space Policy (2006) 

• Operation Burnt Frost (2008) 

• President Barack Obama’s National Security Space Policy (2011) 

RAND also observed that Russia had more national pride invested in space technology and achievements, while China appeared to study Western space tech mostly with an eye to understanding it. They did not necessarily want to build something better themselves. However, China did successfully shoot down their own satellite recently after the U.S. did so in 2008.

The authors appeared to believe it was harder for Americans to understand Chinese nuance and societal expectations than Russian attitudes. For instance, some of the events on their list of 10 were little noted at all in Chinese publications they surveyed, while other events not on the list received significant attention in “native-language primary sources, such as..government publications, military journals, academic reports, and domestic media.”

RAND also appeared to be setting up conditions for further curtailments of free speech in the U.S. and Europe as there were multiple references to China and Russia taking note of Western voices critical of their own countrys’ space programs. 

Draconian anti-protest laws  just passed in the UK are a harbinger, no doubt, as the declining West struggles to manage the narrative.

From the What’s Happening feed on my Twitter account this morning:

A report from 2000 may be of interest too. With it looking like Taiwan could become the next Ukraine, maybe I’ll find time to read RAND’s Dire Strait: Military Aspects of the China-Taiwan Confrontation and Options for U.S. Policy.

What’s Wrong About Public-Private Partnerships?

Aside from the fact that public-private partnership is a euphemism for fascism (or, as Mussolini preferred, corporatism) what is wrong about this structure of taxpayer-funded quasi- government? Public-private partnerships are all the rage these days e.g. the State of Maine just created a Space Corporation to enable private profits based on public infrastructure, and Ukraine relies heavily on Elon Musk’s Starlink network for the communications needed to conduct its war on Russian-speaking Ukrainians. 

Or at least it has until now.

Word on Twitter is that Ukraine asked Elon to hook them up in Crimea but he declined, citing the heightened risk of nuclear war following Ukraine’s terror attack on the Kerch Bridge linking Crimea and Russia.

“The aftermath of a large explosion that heavily damaged the strategic Crimea Bridge, also known as the Kerch Strait Bridge, which connects the Crimean peninsula with the Russian mainland, on Saturday | ©2022 MAXAR TECHNOLOGIESsource: Japan Times

I seldom agree with Elon “We-will-coup-whoever-we-want” Musk and have always wondered about that “we” in his infamous statement. But I have to admit in this case he’s spot on.

Nuclear war is something to be actively avoided, and calling for a negotiated settlement between Ukraine and Russia should be job #1 right now.

Given the fact that the UK (most likely with U.S. encouragement) actively halted peace talks in Turkey back in April, one could be forgiven for thinking we’re safer in Elon’s hands.

But this is really only the case because our national government was long since captured by corporate interests. President Biden called in reps from the big weapons manufacturers to make plans about arming Ukraine, and then Congress handed taxpayers the bill for $17,000,000,000. Some of that went to pay Starlink.

Of course Twitter is awash with accounts calling Musk a traitor, a Putin puppet, and lots more unsavory names for taking this position.

They’ve identified what the problem is with public-private partnerships: use of public resources to advance private agendas. 

This is routinely viewed as a good thing by those who think capitalism is the official religion of the U.S., and that adherence to its profit agenda is equivalent to patriotism.

It’s the same kind of twisted thinking that fails to count military emissions when reckoning with how to address climate crisis. Somehow the planet’s atmosphere is assumed to be patriotic. As if politics dictates to science.

Billionaires can take their ball and go home if they decide they don’t like the way the partnership is going. And calling them unpatriotic is just about the only leverage the public has.