Indeed, two years after the Moscow meeting, Colin Powell became the leading US military figure, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Faced with recalcitrance under President George H. Bush, Powell argued that the USSR was a reasonable adversary and that "terrorist" or "rogue" states did not pose a ballistic threat to the US. "Based on my knowledge of how the Soviets manage their nuclear systems and the safeguards they have," he said in 1990, "I'm fairly comfortable that those weapons will not get into improper hands. [If they did] the systems they have to protect those weapons would make them pretty much unusable." A few months later Saddam Hussein's army invaded Iraq and provided the US with the proper justification for the maintenance of its nuclear arsenal despite the dismemberment of the USSR. The "rogue" state (North Korea, Cuba, Iraq, Iran) emerged as not only as the leading enemy of the US, but also as the main rhetorical justification for the continuation of the US's nuclear military. Now, Colin Powell is the Secretary of State under George W. Bush and it is his job to travel the world and convince the allies not only that the US requires its promethean arsenal to clobber its enemies, but that it also needs a vast anti-ballistic missile defense network to protect its military and population.
Of all the many things that have bewildered the world about the first hundred days of the reign of Bush the Second, nothing is as strange as his promotion of the anti-ballistic missile defense piece. With this one gambit, Bush the Second has provoked anger and unease in most of the world's capitals, although New Delhi's Hindu Right government was eager to please its Washington overlords. Since the appearance of missile defense in the US political world through Ronald Reagan's famous 1983 "Star Wars" speech to promote his Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), the anti-missile defense idea has not made much technological or military progress. But, as Frances Fitzgerald shows us in her new book <Way Out There in the Blue> (Simon and Shuster, 2000), the SDI idea gave Reagan necessary political and geo-strategic capital; perhaps, we may surmise, Bush the Second hopes to garner similar gains with his assertive promotion of the theatre defense shield (what some have called Son of Star Wars, to honour both the cinematic heritage of Reagan and the dynastic one of Bush). Reagan crafted himself (or allowed his advisors to craft him) as the defender of the "free world" against the armageddon of nuclear warfare. Detente required the two regimes to hold their various populations in mutual hostage against the threat of a first strike; if you hit me, I will respond with overwhelming force. Reagan drew from the immorality of this position: just as he erroneously claimed to have freed the US hostages from Iran, he wanted to build a missile shield to free his population from being hostage to nuclear annihilation. In February 1983, the Joint Chiefs of Staff prepared a paper for Reagan which argued that defenses were "more moral and therefore more palatable to the American people," and because defenses "protect the American people, not just avenge them." The logic was unimpeachable. In his 1983 Star Wars speech Reagan called "upon the scientific community in this country, who gave us nuclear weapons, to turn their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace, to give us the means of rendering these weapons impotent and obsolete."
But it was also merely rhetoric. Reagan was forced into the moral language mainly by the vast anti-nuclear (mainly anti-INF) movement across Europe and in the US (the "freeze movement"). His own administration was teeming with advisors whose main theory was to use fears of Soviet strength to build an overwhelming US military (and nuclear) force. After all, fifty members of the ultra-conservative Committee on the Present Danger staffed Reagan's national security bureaucracy. Founded in 1976, the CPD included all manner of Washington insiders, people such as Paul Nitze who was the senior US negotiator at the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty talks of 1969-74 and of the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty. In its statement of purpose the CPD argued that the US had lost the edge of military superiority because the Soviet's use of civil defense training enabled them to consider victory if the two powers had a nuclear exchange. The US population had not been trained to protect itself, so the USSR would use this civil "window of vulnerability" to its advantage in political negotiations. "If we continue to drift," the CPD argued, "we shall become second best to the Soviet Union in overall military strength. Our national survival would be in peril, and we should face, one after another, bitter choices between war and acquiescence under pressure." Reagan's administration raised the US defense budget by 160 percent in its first six years, and the procurement has continued to rise steadily since then. Meanwhile, from 1976 to 1986, the Soviet expenditure on strategic missiles decreased by 40 percent. Furthermore, the CPD opposed SALT II, or any agreement that, in the words of defense bureaucrat Richard Perle, did "not entail a significant improvement in the strategic balance." In other words, the US would not sign an agreement that did not leave it at an advantage. In 1976, Reagan made it clear that "Our foreign policy should be based on the principle that we will go anywhere and do anything that has to be done to protect our citizens from unjust treatment. Our national defense policy should back that up with force." The world must bow down to US interests ("our citizens" is not just people, but also corporations) even if it takes overwhelming force to do so. In the second year of Reagan's reign the US decided to forge a military that could not only fight one and a half wars around the globe, but two full scale conflicts. Vietnam was not to happen again. And besides the moral rhetoric against populations being nuclear hostages was entirely specious. In 1984, the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (set up by the government in 1984) acknowledged that the SDI was not a population defense, but, as its director noted before the US Senate, "I think it is a defense deterrent that we are talking about to prevent them from being able to hit your military capability."
The SDI, then, enabled the Reagan administration to extend the reach of the US military even as the missile defense idea itself was almost pure fantasy. "Politically at least," Fitzgerald writes, "anti-missile defenses were better air than metal." As early as 1962, the former director of the Pentagon's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Herbert York, and Kennedy's science advisor, Jerome Wiesner, wrote that defenses would spur the Soviets to create better weapons, and the cycle would go on. They called this the "dilemma of steadily increasing military power and steadily decreasing national security. It is our considered professional judgment that this dilemma has no technical solution." On technical grounds Fitzgerald quotes from numerous reports that document the scientific impossibility for a perfect defense. In 1983, for instance, a US government audit found that the prospect for a national defense was "so remote that it should not serve as the basis for public expectations of national policy on ballistic missile defense." But the director of the SDIO responded to such criticism with the statement that "I don't think anything in this country is technically impossible. We have a nation which indeed can produce miracles." In Fitzgerald's account, the Soviets feared that this was indeed the case and that the expenditure of several billion dollars into SDI would yield some fruits. She argues that the Soviets believed in the potential of SDI until Andrei Sakharov's statement in December 1986 that SDI "was impossible from the point of view of military strategy" and a waste of money. But this is not entirely the case as her own material illustrates.
Fitzgerald, like many US liberals, wants to dismiss Reagan as relatively incompetent and the SDI initiative as a technical-military fantasy. Without a theory of imperialism, there is a tendency to analyze SDI as folly. But, as she shows, SDI allowed the US to dominate the 1980s by their threat of withdrawing from arms-reduction treaties and negotiations. In February 1986, Gorbachev admitted to as much when he told his advisors that "the United States is counting on our readiness to build the same kind of costly system, hoping meanwhile that they will win this race using their technological superiority." It is only on page 407 of her book that Fitzgerald notes, almost in passing, that "what worried [the Soviets] was that the US might deploy weapons of some sort in space. This concern was not entirely unreasonable: the US was already far ahead of the Soviet Union in the development of anti-satellite weapons, and it was just plausible that the SDI program might sooner or later produce space weaponry that could be used to destroy their ICBMs on the ground." One of the real drawbacks of Fitzgerald's book (from where I get most of this material) is that she ignores the prospect of space weapons, indeed, calls the issue "ludicrous." In hindsight, after the recent statements from the administration of Bush the Second, the prospect is not at all ludicrous.
On 8 May 2001, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld announced that the Secretary of the Air Force will "realign headquarters and field commands to more effectively organize, train, and equip for prompt and sustained space operations." Rumsfeld, who held the same post under the Ford administration, was the chair of the Commission to Assess United States National Security Space Management and Organization (report produced in 1998), is a key player in the space weapons game. The Rumsfeld report of 1998 urges the US President to "have the option to deploy weapons in space" and it warns against a "space Pearl Harbor." As proof of the US drive toward the militarisation of space one need only consider the US refusal to vote in favor of the UN's Outer Space Treaty for the past few years (in 1999 the US and Israel abstained, while in 2000 these two nations were joined by Micronesia, a group of islands deeply dependent on US aid). The Pentagon's Space Command's Long Range Plan notes that "now it is time to begin developing space capabilities, innovative concepts of operations for warfighting and organizations that can meet the challenge of the 21st Century." In December 2000, the US Department of Defense authorized money for two laser weapon projects, one by TRW, Lockheed Martin and Boeing and a second by TRW to build the "Alpha High-Energy Laser." At his briefing on 8 May, Rumsfeld was asked if the US wants to put weapons in space. His reply was hesitant, but then he said that the US would continue to follow its National Space Policy (adopted on 19 September 1996). He read a part of the text: "The Department of Defense shall maintain the capability to execute the mission, areas of space support, force enhancement, space control and force application. Consistent with treaty obligations, the United States will develop, operate and maintain space control capabilities to ensure freedom of action in space, and if directed, deny such freedom of action to adversaries. These capabilities may also be enhanced by diplomatic, legal and military measures to preclude an adversary's hostile use of space systems and services." The language is fairly clear.
On 16 January 1984, Reagan announced that "Nineteen eighty-four is the year of opportunities for peace." War is Peace, as Orwell wrote in his satirical book <1984.> Peace through strength, peace through domination. It is clear to most of the world that the Son of Star Wars, the Nuclear Missile Defense option, is also not about defense, but it is another way for the US to exert its global hegemony. The NMD, as this history of the SDI shows us, is a political weapon to further US ends rather than enhance global security.