Thursday, May 19, 2005

Star Wars Rods From God

Maybe Air Force generals got into an early screening of Revenge of the Sith. Or it could be that they're trying to macho up the flyboy image of warriors who just push buttons, while everyone knows the real fightin's done by Marine and Army troops, up close and personal.

Whatever the case, they need to get over their hard-on to create an orbiting death star weapons system. The NY Times reported yesterday that the Air Force is now pressing to open up space to weapons they can hurtle down at any target on Earth.

Let me just start with the fact that the article appeared in the NY Times Business section. Sure, that's an editorial judgment, but the article made clear that weaponizing space would open up lot's of profitable opportunities.

The NY Times made the case that the drive to weaponize space is motivated by the failure of the missile defense program which started with Ronald Reagan's Star Wars defense shield idea (by the way - what movie did he get that idea from). What Ken Lay scam artist wouldn't like a piece of that action! Perpetual failure begets more money. After 22 years and $100 billion, the best we can do is dumb down the tests so defensive missiles have a chance to lock on to their targets. Weapons scientists are saying they think we'll need another $220 billion to $1 trillion for space-based missile defense research. The Bush administration is currently spending $10 billion a year on missile defense research.

President Bush thought he could get his "son of Star Wars" system deployed by the end of 2004, but his system is still on Sith training wheels. Only 5 of 8 tests resulted in hits, and even then, the tests were rigged. In the last test, the defensive missile didn't even get off the ground. So if, say, China hurled 8 missiles at the U.S., called us up ahead of time to tell us the launch time, speed, and trajectory, and we were really on the ball, we could fire off defensive missiles, and still lose 3 cities.

Of course, throwing money down the ol' Guantanamo Koran can doesn't make anyone safe from the assymetric threat of terrorists who could just use car bombs, or send a container ship as a nuclear Trojan horse (that would mess up a few Wal-Mart shipments).

This just proves that the Bush administration is capable of flushing down the toilet a whole lot more than the Koran. Maybe it's time to demand accountability with some "No Defense Contractor Left Behind" test standards.

PBS's Frontline web site has an April 2002 article from Technology Review in which MIT professor Theodore Postol reveals the basic flaws of missile defense and how a primitive adversary can easily defeat the system with decoys. He closes by inveighing against the belligerence and ignorance of Bush the Junior:

In the wake of the terrifying attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, the entire civilized world will need to work to defeat the forces of ignorance, intolerance and destruction. In my view, the current attitude of the Bush administration that "we can go it alone" is one of the most dangerous and ill-considered security policies to be adopted and pursued by the United States in recent memory.

The current U.S. approach to missile defense is a direct outgrowth of the irrational idea that "we" can deal with the world without working with others. It is not only an irrational position when examined in terms of social realities, it is also irrational in terms of basic principles of physical science. It is sad and disturbing that the most technologically advanced and wealthy society in human history has displayed so little scientific and political leadership on matters that will almost certainly affect every aspect of global development in the 21st century.

James Clay Moltz argued in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (2003) that, notwithstanding the paucity of serious questions asked about Bush's Star Wars program, it was highly unpopular, and called upon a publicity campaign to expose its hidden pitfalls, as well as a diplomatic effort to better secure peace.

The Air Force proposal to put "shooters" in space would break President Eisenhower's pledge to leave the heavens as a "space sanctuary" free of weapons, and free of war.

As for the scrotum-hold of the military-industrial complex on the taxpayers for science fiction research boondoggles, here's just one more reminder of what President Eisenhower said in his farewell address (1961):
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Finally, many have suspected that there's something awry when people like Pat Robertson and Jeff Gannon become poster boys for the new right wing. Well (hold your sides for this one), the NY Times reported that the Air Force has nicknamed one of its space weapons "Rods From God."


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