President Trump's idea of creating a military space force will lead to a new arms race. Is that what we want to give future generations?
The arms race on earth is dangerous and costly enough, without adding a new layer in space.
The potential of weapons in space has existed for many years, going to back Dwight Eisenhower's presidency.
The Soviet Union's launching of its satellite Sputnik during 1957 ushered in a wave of fear of how space might be used for attack. The U.S. and Soviet’s testing of long range missiles created the possibility that the militarization of space may not be far off.
Eisenhower was wary of the arms race on earth, which led to his peace proposals to the Soviets. Among these were mutual aerial inspection called “open skies” and a treaty ending nuclear weapons testing.
Ike’s science advisory team, led by Dr. James Killian, was front and center on these arms control proposals. The scientists worked on finding ways to verify the nuclear test ban and potential disarmament treaties.
Killian, the former President of MIT, also greatly influenced Eisenhower on the future of space. The science advisors prepared an introduction to outer space which impressed Eisenhower.
It also made Ike determined for the peaceful use of space. When Eisenhower spoke before the United Nations in September, 1960 he issued proposals for the peaceful use of space.
Ike said "Agreement on these proposals would enable future generations to find peaceful and scientific progress, not another fearful dimension to the arms race, as they explore the universe."
Eisenhower said the Antarctic Treaty of 1959, which banned all military activity on that continent, could be a model for space. Indeed it was.
The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 furthered the concept of the peaceful use of the universe. All parties to the treaty are obligated “not to place in orbit around the Earth any objects carrying nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction, install such weapons on celestial bodies, or station such weapons in outer space in any other manner.”
Before that the 1963 Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty prohibited outer space nuclear test explosions.
Now if we start a military force for space it will break the spirit of those treaties. It would open the door for the dreaded space arms race with Russia, China or others.
President Trump has been calling for more military spending on earth and now potentially in space. When does it end? We need to build international cooperation for disarmament on earth and prevent the militarization of space.
So let’s not dive into creating a real life sequel to Star Wars. It may make for a great movie but it’s not a show we want future generations to experience for real.
Let’s start focusing on reducing and eventually eliminating nuclear weapons on earth. Let's ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty and work toward disarmament. This would set another example for keeping space peaceful.
How tragic it would be if we end up spending vast resources on a military space force, when there is such great needs on earth. Such spending would also take away from the peaceful science we can develop through space exploration.
We should reject any call for a space military force.
William Lambers is the author of Nuclear Weapons and the Road to Peace. His writing have been published by History News Network, HuffPost, NY Times, The Hill and many other news outlets.