Obama’s Position on Space Treaty is Impractical and Dangerous

Obama’s Position on Space Treaty is Impractical and Dangerous

According to a recent article in Global Security Newswire, President Barack Obama might seek an international agreement to limit weapons in space, reversing Bush administration policy. As noted on the White House Web site, the new administration is calling for "a worldwide ban on weapons that interfere with military and commercial satellites." The president's position on this issue is impractical and dangerous.

Proponents of the ban argue that because the U.S. has the most space-based assets to lose in a future space war, it also has the greatest interest in restricting the use of space to peaceful purposes. An international treaty is seen as an effective means of creating a weapon-free zone outside of Earth's atmosphere. Treaty proponents also assert that U.S. restraint in deploying space weapons will forestall an arms race by removing the need for other states to develop countervailing capabilities. However sincere these assertions might be, they are simply not grounded in reality. Consider three arguments against a space weapons treaty:

First and foremost, there is no internationally agreed-upon definition of a space weapon. One proposed definition includes only space-based systems specifically produced to destroy other space objects. But that raises the question of intent, always difficult to prove. This definition also fails to take into account Earth-based systems that could be used to destroy objects in space, like the anti-satellite weapons used by the People's Republic of China in 2007 and the United States in 2008. Nor does it include terrestrial laser systems capable of jamming satellite communications. An alternate definition -- any object in, or passing through, space that has the capability of damaging or destroying another space object -- is equally unfeasible. Theoretically, any object in space could be used to intercept or collide with another object, again raising the issue of determining intent.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.