“Reinforcing deterrence”?

Author’s note: This is part three of an analysis of a Stratfor article on “Avoiding a War in Space”.

Omar Lamrani continued in his article “Avoiding a War in Space” through a section he labeled “reinforcing deterrence”. Following this odd section title, Mr. Lamrani correctly stated, “If the United States wants to preserve its primacy in the face of increasing threats to its strength in space, Washington will need to invest in strategies to deter attacks on its orbital assets.” This wasn’t a bad statement, albeit some parts of it were a bit off. First, unfortunately, current space policy does not contain the goal of “primacy” and other adjectives such as superiority, supremacy and even pre-eminence have been frowned upon since the Space Posture Review of 2009-10. Instead, terms such as “leadership” and globalist terms such as “extend humanity’s reach” have been preferred. While there is nothing wrong with either of those terms, if one takes the time to look at the space policy and strategy documents of other nation-states on this planet, one will find that international cooperation and helping extend humanity’s reach is a very small piece of the puzzle. Most nation’s policies, including supra-national entities such as the European Union focus on what is best for its economy, defense and its citizens. If international efforts help those three things, that’s icing on the cake, but not required. Our space policy and strategy documents, are very focused on international engagement and not seeming to be focused on dominance of the high ground of space. China, on the other hand, doesn’t have much trouble saying that superiority and supremacy are goals and understandably so if looked at geo-strategically. Everett Dolman, author of Astropolitik also believes in dominance as a means to developing space for all nations, by advocating that the United States be the dominant space power…all of this to say that primacy does not appear to be this Administration’s objective in space policy.

Second, Lamrani is correct that if the United States wants to preserve its space capabilities, it will need to invest and develop a strategy to deter attack on its orbital infrastructures. However, the rest of this section kind of drops off as repeating what the present Administration and other supporters in think tank-land are promoting as “reinforcing deterrence”. Things such as added space situational awareness for attribution is an important capability-no doubt about it- however, this does not deter attack. Just because one can see an attack taking place does not mean that the targeted nation can maneuver fast enough to get out of the way or warn the aggressor to not hit us. The Space Fence and other vital tools for space situational awareness and attribution/tracking are all well and good but that wont deter without the threat of a credible response or in the case of an offensive dominant domain, perhaps even a preventative/defensive strike to negate first strike instability. Presently, this nation has no real deterrence framework to assure the safety of operations in space. Sure we have a National Security Space Strategy that claims to have four deterrent layers but none of which, as we have spoken of before, actually are deterring anything or anyone from interfering or attacking our assets. If one reviews the ITU reports and other news sources, one can see if they open their eyes that the real norm of behavior in space currently is that of reversible counterspace strikes including cyber, lasers, and jamming activities. It also includes testing, development and deployment of kinetic counterspace weapons by the Chinese and Russians-things that the NSSS said it would deter from occurring. So to “reinforce” deterrence, one has to actually have deterrent capabilities to enhance. The U.S. presently does not have that. Can it in the future? Certainly. Will it, that is up to us as citizens to request that from our leaders in key space policy roles from the White House on down and with our friends in private industry. If the United States wants to protect its intersts in space, it will need to have a warfighting capability-a real one-like the Chinese and Russians are developing and deploying and heed General Washington’s old adage (based on a Roman general) that to assure peace, one should “prepare for war”.

For more information and analysis on how the United States’ present “deterrence strategy” is ineffective and ways to remedy it, look out for the release of my book “Reversing the Tao: A Framework for Credible Space Deterrence” in late June, early July on Amazon.com.

 

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