The Globe and Mail, Monday, January 15, 2001
The final frontier - There's more than meets the eye to the controversial U.S.
scheme, says scientist JOHN VALLEAU. Much, much more
By John Valleau
Incoming U.S. president George W. Bush and his nominee as
secretary of state, Colin Powell, are strong supporters of
the National Missile Defence project -- basically a
scaled-down version of the "Star Wars" scheme that was
proposed, and discredited, in the Reagan years. The purpose
of the project is claimed to be the ability to intercept, in
space, a small number of missiles launched against the
United States. But the controversial plan may be more
sinister than we could imagine, and Canada must make every
effort to stop it.
The missile defence proposal poses a giant conundrum,
because the costs, financial and strategic, appear much
greater than any benefits to the United States.
If, as its proponents say, the system would be capable only
of intercepting a few attacking missiles, the scheme offers
no defence from an assault by any serious antagonist. The
costs, on the other hand, are massive, not only in consuming
billions of dollars by itself, but in fuelling a new arms
race. Russia and China both interpret the U.S. plan as part
of the development of a nuclear "first-strike" capability.
They, therefore, make it clear that, if it goes ahead, they
will feel obliged to modernize their arsenals. This would
mean an end to nuclear disarmament.
So why would the United States contemplate accepting these
risks for such meagre and dubious benefits? What can be
driving the the missile defence project?
The answer may lie in a little-known plan for the United
State to dominate and colonize outer space. This sounds
absurd and paranoid, but it is all laid out in the mission
statements of the United States Space Command. The basic
document, Vision for 2020, is already five years old. (This,
and the later Long Range Plan fleshing out the "vision," are
publicly available on the Web, at
http://www.spacecom.af.mil/usspace. Copies can be found also
on the Project Ploughshares Web site,
http://www.ploughshares.ca. The Space Command describes its
role as "dominating the space dimension of military
operations to protect U.S. interests and investment [and]
integrating Space Forces into war-fighting capabilities
across the full spectrum of conflict."
This is a clear plan to militarize space with U.S. weapons,
and to seek the ability to "deny others the use of space."
The report is adorned with pictures of targets on Earth
being zapped by such weapons. All this, while the United
States is a signatory of the Outer Space Treaty, which aims
at preventing the weaponization of outer space.
The connection to colonialism is also pretty explicit: "As
sea commerce advanced in the 18th and 19th centuries,
nations built navies to project power and protect and
enhance their commercial interests. Similarly, during the
westward expansion of the continental United States,
military outposts and the cavalry emerged to protect our
wagon trains, settlements and railroads. . . . The emergence
of space power follows . . . these models."
It is, at first, hard to believe that this horrifying plan
is really U.S. policy, but there has been no repudiation of
the published intentions by the U.S. administration, and the
Space Command continues to be handsomely financed.
How does this explain the missile defence proposal? First of
all, the Space Command is the responsible agency directing
the defence project, and the "vision" makes it clear that it
foresees that "NMD will evolve into a mix of ground and
space sensors and weapons." So the limited missile defence
that has been discussed publicly is not at all what is
actually in mind.
Then, to put the Space Command plans in place, the United
States will have to abrogate, or ignore, the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty and probably the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty as well, while violating at least the spirit of the
Outer Space Treaty and the Environmental Modification
The nations of the world would never accept the colonial
status implied by this U.S. plan, but -- and this is where
the missile defence scheme comes in -- they might be
persuaded to accept the dismemberment of these treaties, if
they only see the missile defences as a relatively benign,
small-scale defence system, as it is portrayed.
What is Canada's responsibility in the face of this? The
United States has not yet made a firm decision to proceed
with deployment of its missile defences. Statements by Mr.
Bush imply his approval, but there remains some considerable
internal resistance, and the United States remains somewhat
sensitive to the international reactions.
Russia and China have given sharp warning of their response
to any deployed missile defences -- rearmament. The nations
of Europe have also expressed their opposition in forthright
terms. But Canada has yet to speak. Lloyd Axworthy, when
minister of Foreign Affairs, did make a statement giving
strong reasons for opposing it, and Prime Minister Jean
Chrétien, in his recent joint statement with Russian
President Vladimir Putin, appears to concur that the
U.S.-Russian Anti-Ballistic-Missile treaty must be
But Canada must speak out clearly. The United States is
desperately seeking to legitimize the scheme by gaining its
acceptance by a respected nation, and is hoping we might
play that role. Furthermore, Canada cannot remain neutral,
because, if it is silent, it risks being involved,
willy-nilly, through its membership in NORAD.
So it is urgent that the Canadian government speak out now,
opposing the missile defence project. We have nothing to
gain from the plan and a lot to lose: the hope of abolishing
nuclear weapons, the hope of an outer space without weapons,
the respect of the international community.
Our rejection would give strong support to missile defence
critics in the U.S., and it could well help to turn the
John Valleau is a professor emeritus at the University of
Toronto, in the chemical-physics theory group of the
Chemistry Department. He is also a member of the board and
of the executive of Science for Peace.
Paul A. Hamel
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
http://188.8.131.52 (web page)
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