On the Edge of Earth

On the Edge of Earth: The Future of American Space Power

Steven Lambakis
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 384
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  • Book Info
    On the Edge of Earth
    Book Description:

    " The United States has long exploited Earth's orbits to enhance security, generate wealth, and solidify its position as a world leader. America's ambivalence toward military activities in space, however, has the potential to undermine our future security. Many in Washington possess a peculiar regard for space and warfare. Some perceive space as a place to defend and fight for America's vital interests. Others -- whose voices are frequently dominant and manifested in public rhetoric, funded defense programs, international diplomacy, and treaty commitments -- look upon space as a preserve not to be despoiled by earthly strife. After forty years of discussion, the debate over America's role in space rages on. In light of the steady increase in international satellite activity for commercial and military purposes, American's vacillation on this issue could begin to pose a real threat to our national security. Steven Lambakis argues that this policy dysfunction will eventually manifest itself in diminished international political leverage, the forfeiture of technological advances, and the squandering of valuable financial resources. Lambakis reviews key political, military, and business developments in space over the past four decades. Emphasizing that we should not take our unobstructed and unlimited access to space for granted, he identifies potential space threats and policy flaws and proposes steps to meet national security demands for the twenty-first century.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4577-8
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vii)
  3. [Illustration]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-2)

    On the Edge of Earth: The Future of American Space Poweraddresses major shortcomings in the defense space policy of the United States and offers recommendations to those who make, influence, and study national security decisions. Its comprehensiveness, references to American political traditions, attention to military and space history, and focus on policy-level considerations distinguish it from other works on the subject.

    Space is a vital force in the life of the United States, the country’s future bound to the development of capabilities for exploiting this environment. Indeed, America’s security today depends mightily on its space power. Yet Americans do...

  6. Part 1: The Vital Force
    • [Part 1: Introduction]
      (pp. 3-4)

      To call something “vital” is to underscore its indispensability. Vital implies life and that which is necessary to survival. It also suggests an alternative state: mortality and the absence of that which is necessary to sustain life. Although man’s (or a nation’s) physical survival does not hinge on activities in space, our lives are nevertheless tethered, sometimes imperceptibly so, to objects orbiting Earth. Space sustains a modern economy, impacts international relationships and diplomacy, and, most important, contributes profoundly to the evolution of modern military forces.

      The reader should take away from part 1 of this book three broad points. First,...

    • 1 In Space Is Our Trust: How and Why Does Space Impact the United States?
      (pp. 5-38)

      Space is America’s passion. As an endless and virtually unexplored frontier, accessible only once we have availed ourselves of our collective technological and engineering genius, space also is a truly American passion. Satellites, the flowers of our obsession, have spawned a global social revolution, affecting how we think and go about our daily business, entertain ourselves, and relate at home and abroad to our family, friends, and business associates. Space, in fact, has affected in a fundamental way how we function governmentally—even how we fight wars and guard the peace.

      Feeding off the computer revolution, robots orbiting overhead bestow...

    • 2 Space and International Security Affairs: What Role Does Space Play in International Relations?
      (pp. 39-71)

      The systems supporting the exercise of military power help distinguish peace and war in any age.¹ Much as we could not recognize twentieth-century world politics absent a consideration of nuclear weapons or the rise of air power, explaining the decline of the western Roman Empire in the first centuries of the first millennium would make less sense without recognizing the central role cavalry played in the hands of Rome’s enemies. Similarly, space systems have made their mark on international relations. Future historians will be remiss should they attempt to explain diplomacy, warfare, and peace from the late twentieth century onward...

    • 3 Evolution of a Space Power: What Are the Implications of the Space Revolution for U.S. Military Strategy?
      (pp. 72-108)

      This chapter identifies the United States’ motivations for exploiting space for offensive and defensive purposes and draws linkages between the multiple uses of space and U.S. military success. In addition, it asks this basic question: What else could space do for American security? Whether space should remain a sanctuary, an isolated environment where governments may find perpetual peace, or whether it should be more fully exploited by the military arm of the country is a fundamental, even philosophical, question germane to sound consideration of the future of American space power. While this chapter examines some options and considers some missions...

  7. Part 2: In the Arena
    • [Part 2: Introduction]
      (pp. 109-111)

      Part 2 of this book is a “reality check,” a no-holds-barred examination of the external limitations and constraints that may be placed on U.S. space activities described in part 1. In defense language, this portion of the book addresses the broad and sometimes ambiguous subject of space threats. Objectivity in this analysis is crucial, and I have made every effort to deal evenhandedly with the facts, all of which have surfaced in the public domain. Although the conclusions offered in this part will suffer somewhatin the detailsfrom not having had a window into the classified world of the...

    • 4 Survival in the Twenty-first Century: Is There a Credible Threat to U.S. Space Systems?
      (pp. 112-141)

      Simple mathematics can demonstrate what otherwise might be clouded by more sophisticated defense analysis. Although not nearly the final word on this subject, numbers do talk. The space budgets of NASA and the Department of Defense have gone from 1959 levels of $1,266 billion and $2,377 billion, respectively, to 1998 levels of $12,321 billion and $12,359 billion (fiscal year 1998 constant dollars).¹ In July 2000, the United States had a total of 741 operational and inactive satellites in orbit.² New remote-sensing, scientific, meteorological, and dedicated military satellites also will swarm the skies. Orbital traffic, in other words, is expected to...

    • 5 The Shattered Sanctum: How Might Space Be Used against the United States?
      (pp. 142-174)

      The twentieth century is notable in history for the United States’ rise to world leadership, economic dominance, and military preeminence. Paradoxically, technological developments in that same century also tempered U.S. strategic leverage by creating new vulnerabilities, for no longer could Americans rest blissfully behind shelters propped up by distance and supported by the surrounding seas. Alexander Hamilton was one of the first national leaders to recognize that, although abundantly blessed by geography, new technologies and the dynamics of international politics one day would impose new national security challenges. InThe Federalisthe noted, “Though a wide ocean separates the United...

    • 6 The Pitfalls of Arrogance and the Limits of Military Power: How Might a Technologically Inferior Adversary Gain an Advantage?
      (pp. 175-204)

      Threats from enemies that think in unorthodox ways and employ unconventional weapons have surfaced lately in defense lexicons and analyses. Such threats, commonly referred to as “asymmetric,” are as old as warfare itself. Said Sun Tzu inThe Art of War(c. 500 B.C.), a manuscript discovered in the West only in the late eighteenth century, “As flowing water avoids the heights and hastens to the low lands, so an army avoids strength and strikes weakness.” He also observed that “rapidity is the essence of war; take advantage of the enemy’s unreadiness, make your way by unexpected routes, and attack...

  8. Part 3: Confronting Janus
    • [Part 3: Introduction]
      (pp. 205-206)

      The divergent set of policy visions for space is the heart and soul of the national quandary over defense space matters, despite the impression one might glean from the “National” Space Policy. Janus, the two-faced god of Roman mythology, is a wonderfully apt metaphorical tool that may be used to illustrate our national dysfunction in space.

      Much like Janus, the United States’ defense space policy continues a tradition of looking in two different and, at times, opposite directions. In very general terms, two heads vie for the position of prima donna on the country’s space policy stage. Those who regard...

    • 7 National Defense Space Policy: How Has Policy Evolved since Eisenhower?
      (pp. 207-235)

      The United States’ defense space policy, handed down from president to president, from generation to generation, has exhibited remarkable stability over the past four decades, primarily with respect to national goals. Although there is much to be said for stability, balance, and continuity in a policy regime, one should not discount the degree to which familiarity and continuity breed a very unhelpful complacency. What we say by way of justifying U.S. defense space activities is so done by rote, reflex, and habit. Habits, by definition the products of repetition and settled tendencies, require minimal exercise of intelligence. In settled times,...

    • Illustrations
      (pp. None)
    • 8 Freedom of Space and the Defect of Present Policy: Why Is the United States Unprepared for Its Military Future in Space?
      (pp. 236-271)

      Freedom of space, a principle seated deeply in the psyche of the American people, remains a critical element of the national security strategy. Decades of prosperity and security at home cause many Americans to take for granted their freedom to explore and move about the world, to engage the rest of the world at all levels of interaction—economic, commercial, diplomatic, and military—on the land and the oceans, in the air, and now in space.

      Principles and goals underlying the United States’ declared space policy are essentially unadulterated from Eisenhower’s time, notwithstanding the political tumult that often arises during...

    • 9 Putting on a New Face: Maturing the United States’ Policy Vision
      (pp. 272-296)

      Both of the United States’ policy faces have blemishes. The defect of the one is the conscious decision to remain disinterested or unconvinced of the need to shape national involvement in space as it concerns engagement with potential enemies. The defect of the other is its conviction that space is an alien environment that can and must be kept free of the more discordant activities that take place on Earth.

      The deficiencies of both are set in even greater relief when one considers the recent profound changes in the world security environment, bustling international commercial space industry, relentless integration of...

  9. Appendix: Elementary Descriptions of Orbits
    (pp. 297-302)
  10. Notes
    (pp. 303-353)
  11. Index
    (pp. 354-366)