Written by Dabney B. on Friday, March 16th, 2012
The Cold War was something of a mixed blessing. The great thing about it was that it pushed American commerce and ingenuity to new heights. Unfortunately, the world gained an excess of incredibly destructive weapons, many of which are still around today. The armaments left over from the Cold War are still so ominous that President Obama recently promised to dramatically scale down the stockpile of US nukes.
So, when the possibility of another Cold War looms, it might be in America’s best interest to attempt to prevent any sort of military escalation. Unlike the 20th century’s Cold War, though, the next one might take place in orbit.
As surprising as it may seem, it is entirely possible that the next great arms race will focus on space weapons. Having hit a sort of nuclear ceiling in the field of pure destructive power with the atomic bomb, the only area that can truly experience rapid and profound development is space technology. The Obama Administration fears that a step taken by the US, China, or Russia to weaponize space could signal the start of an arms race between the three nations. Unlike the previous Cold War, this hypothetical Cold War II would inevitably end with a host of super weapons orbiting earth, each one soaring directly over the heads of everyday civilians.
The Obama Administration has been pushing for an international Code of Conduct for space-faring nations, known as Prevention of Arms Race in Outer Space (PAROS). These restrictions would apply during times of peace by limiting the rate of militarization, and they would also apply during periods of war by acting as a sort of Geneva Convention in space. For example, these new restrictions might label actions that create dangerous space debris as a war crime. These limits will help keep earth’s orbital space safer for everyone, but it could also tie the hands of US military officials.
As far-fetched and unnecessary as these precautions might seem today, it is the next logical step considering how close we are actually developing functional and lethal space weapons. Simply exploring the concept of space weapons is not enough, for we will also need to consider the actual implications and ramifications of orbital warfare, as that step could drastically alter the international climate. As technology and political agendas push our focus towards the stars, one question rings sharply in our minds: Will orbital space become the fourth theater in our traditional land-sea-air triumvirate, or will it remain a communal region that welcomes the nonthreatening satellites of all nations?
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