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The Case Against Star Wars

IT'S BEEN 20 YEARS since a weapon was tested in space—the so-called "Star Wars" program of the Reagan Administration. Now, the President has revived the notion of space weapons, as embodied in an Air Force strategy to "dominate" space, through the use of weapons.

Scholars at the Henry L. Stimson Center, a nonpartisan Washington, D.C., think tank, warn that militarizing outer space will create a galaxy of problems.

A Stimson Center guide addressing these issues says that if the United States tests space weapons, "others will follow." And if a space-arms race occurs, satellites could be easily destroyed by space weapons, which would lead to major disruption because satellites play a central role in government, the military, business, and emergency operations.

Among the satellite-dependent operations at risk would be military imaging, vehicle tracking, weather forecasting, search and rescue operations, and airplane navigation. Replacing satellites would be exceedingly expensive, the report notes.

The United States doesn't put itself at great risk by not testing space weapons, the guide continues: "[I]f we maintain our huge lead in military strength, hedge against surprise, and make it clear that we will test and deploy space weapons if others do so, we can better maintain space as a sanctuary."

The Stimson Center calls for the drafting of a space code of conduct akin to treaties that bar dangerous military activities on the ground, in the air, and at sea.stimson_spacesecurity1205.pdf