Justin's note: Last Monday, Donald Trump announced that he's establishing a new, sixth branch of the military known as the "Space Force."
It sounds like a joke. But Trump's dead serious about this. Here's what he said:
Our destiny beyond the Earth is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security…
When it comes to defending America, it is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space.
It's one of the strangest stories I've ever come across. So, I called up Doug Casey as soon as I heard it, to get his take…
Justin: Doug, what do you think about the creation of a Space Force?
Doug: I thought there was an understanding amongst governments that they weren't going to militarize space, as much as there's an understanding that Antarctica won't be militarized. Nice ideas. Ideally you want the smallest militaries possible, in the fewest places possible—instead of large militaries absolutely everywhere. In fact, my ideal would be to limit the size of the military to the head of state and his cabinet, and their area of operations to an octagon, or a small arena someplace.
But that's unrealistic. Weak old men prefer to have foolish young men fight for them, at taxpayer expense.
That said, anything that can be militarized will be militarized in today's world. So an American Space Force was inevitable. And there's no point in kvetching about the inevitable. But it takes risks and expenses up to the next level.
Once space is militarized, the Space Force could—is intended to—destroy any or all of the thousands of satellites in space for communications, science, and all sorts of worthwhile things. Causing trillions of dollars of direct and indirect damage. But that's far from the only thing that Space Force would do. Like any military organization, the purpose is to kill people and destroy property.
This news reminds me of the conversation we had a few weeks ago about the so-called "Rod from God." That, again, is basically a tungsten rod, a foot in diameter and 20 feet long, that can be dropped from orbit. It would use only kinetic energy, so there's no radioactive fallout. But it would be ultra-accurate, ultra-fast, ultra-stealthy, and as devastating as a small nuclear explosion.
Ever since the days of the cavemen, warriors have striven to control the high ground—and space is the ultimate high ground.
So this is ramping up the arms race in a big way. And I don't see how you can stop it. Governments get in wars with each other for a living; it's their raison d'etre. It's been that way for thousands of years. No different from Game of Thrones, to use an analogy that's more meaningful to the average sports fan.
So, the fact that they said they wouldn't militarize space long ago meant nothing. It sounded good because nobody was in a position to do it. The cat's out of the bag now.
Justin: How might other countries respond to this? Do you think they'll announce plans for their own Space Forces?
Doug: Unquestionably—if they can get hold of the technology. You've got to look at who's space-capable. The Russians are very space-capable. Now that the US has acted, they're almost forced to do it as a simple matter of self-defense. The Chinese are also space-capable. So, they'll do it as well. The Indians are becoming space-capable. And, of course, the Europeans. Soon we're going to have two, three, many different forces in space.
It reminds me of the excellent Stanley Kubrick movie , which is totally brilliant and one of my top ten favorites. It's about the start of World War III.
You may recall that in the early '60s, when it's set, there was said to be a "missile gap" between the Soviets and the Americans. In the War Room, the Americans are discussing a gigantic megabomb the Russians have set off, and that there's no way to survive but to hide in mine shafts. One general reflexively says, based on nothing, "Mr. President, we must not allow a mineshaft gap!" So the Americans shift their efforts from building nuclear missiles, which are now worthless, to digging mineshafts—in order to ensure the survival of high government officials.
This is just the way these things happen. Somebody does A and somebody else has to do B to counter A. Then somebody else does C to counter B.
It's part of the human condition. One group of chimpanzees around the watering hole discover that they can use sticks to brain their opponents. Then, chimpanzees on the other side of the watering hole figure how to put a rock at the end of the stick to make it more effective. Another group, watching them, decides sharpening the rock will give them a further edge. It becomes a question of who will strike first, while they've still got the edge.
Whenever we're talking about governments and their militaries, the Golden Rule is "Do unto others—but do it first!"