Lost in the desert that is now called public discourse regarding trade are the nontrade benefits of free trade arrangements.
Like so much that is polarized about American politics, the extreme camps dominate the public discourse. We have taken the complex universe of trade and attempted to box all positions into either “Free traders” or “Protectionists.”
It is granted that extremists on both ends usually can be revealed easily since their positions on economics supersede the nation’s needs. Free trade extremists, acolytes of the religion of globalization, would sacrifice national security interests for profit. At the other end of the spectrum, extreme protectionists would ensure that failing industries, that would eventually hurt the nation, continue under government largesse.
Often lost in this swamp is one of the principal benefits of actual free trade, which increases security and diplomatic power. The common-sense approach realizes that free trade, which is based on mutual benefit, secured against government corruption, predatory pricing and lending, dumping and over-regulation, is a net positive.
Needless to say, China engages in all of those harmful practices, making it the most flawed example of free trade on the planet.
One free trade agreement that would knit together economic, security, diplomatic and cultural alliance is the one between the U.S. and the U.K.
One of the potential positive outcomes of Brexit is to reignite the need for this economic union. What comes to mind is Winston Churchill’s famous quote of 1940, “We must be united, we must be undaunted, we must be inflexible. Our qualities and deeds must burn and glow through the gloom of Europe until they become the veritable beacon of its salvation.”
Many economists have focused on the failed attempt from 2013 to 2016 to create a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (T-TIP), which failed primarily due to the EU overregulation and protectionist practices in areas such as agriculture and automobiles.
Prior to Brexit, any free trade arrangement with Great Britain would have had to be under an EU umbrella. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was vilified by many on the U.S./U.K. leftwing for supporting Brexit, though few would trade the U.K.’s response to the COVID pandemic with that of the E.U.
As a result of Brexit, President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Johnson engaged in five negotiation sessions which started on May 5, 2020, to hammer out a U.S./U.K. FTA.
The Trump administration envisioned the benefits of such an agreement to expand economic opportunities in all sectors, create better-paying jobs for Americans and eliminate tariffs and nontariff barriers between the two. In addition, the U.K. felt that such an agreement would enliven British GDP and consumer choice.
Although there are many more positives than negatives, there are hurdles to overcome. For example, British food standards that oppose particular GMOs, chemical, antibiotic and hormone use by U.S. producers are a clear issue on their side of the Atlantic, while Americans view the British National Health Service (NHS) effectively undercuts American pharmaceuticals through government support. There are also sticking points over digital service taxes.
This U.S./U.K. FTA would join the world’s first- and sixth-largest economies and promote military and defense sales and technology exchange when anti-Western adversaries are growing in strength. More importantly and beyond the scope of any economic calculation, such an FTA would strengthen the Anglo-American special relationship at a time when Churchill’s dream of the destiny of the “English-speaking peoples” is needed more than ever.
It would fulfill the fifth clause of the 1940 Atlantic Charter between President Franklin Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill: “Fifth, they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;”.
This is not merely the concrete military and diplomatic link which is the strongest between two nations, perhaps in history, but a bond of history, law, culture, religion and society.
Such an agreement is the natural and organic outgrowth of the Anglosphere as the center of gravity of western democratic and Judeo-Christian values whose influence over democracy promotion, human rights, the rule of law, the free flow of goods, services and ideas are the very cornerstones needed for a bright 21st century.
There seems to be a cottage industry developing around the White House Press Secretary, Jen Psaki, and her gaffes and mischaracterizations.
For example, when asked about the Biden administration’s support for the new military branch, the United States Space Force, Psaki was caught off guard.
A reporter asked about the Biden administration’s commitment to keeping Space Force, and she responded, “Wow. Space Force. It’s the plane of today.”
The reporter pushed back, and Psaki continued by saying, “It is an interesting question. I am happy to check with our Space Force point of contact. I’m not sure who that is. I will find out and see if we have any update on that.”
House Armed Services ranking member Mike Rogers was blunt when he remarked, “It’s concerning to see the Biden administration’s press secretary blatantly diminish an entire branch of our military as the punchline of a joke, which I’m sure China would find funny,” Psaki later walked the comment back.
The White House confirmed their “full support” for Space Force.
However, most analysts agree that space-national security is not a top priority of this administration.
Space Force is under siege by various factions with drastically different ideologies, ranging from left-wing secular progressives that believe Space Force will militarize an already militarized space to libertarians who believe that it is a colossal waste of money.
These two vastly different groups share two traits: firstly, they want to characterize Space Force as a “Trump vanity project.”
Secondly, they have zero understanding of the strategic precipice America is walking on. Thus, these groups focus on cosmetic attacks because they are entirely out of their depth on strategy.
They make fun of the uniforms, the name “guardians,” the use of the delta insignia (which pre-dates Star Trek), and the general absurdity via a Netflix series.
A review of the fundamental issues is in order. There were long-standing debates about the need for a military space branch. Ultimately, these debates distilled down to arguments over the concepts of “Guard,” “Corps,” and “Force.”
The third idea, a Space Force, would be an independent branch after transitioning from the U.S. Air Force.
These debates were held among space and military professionals in niche areas and did not include the broader national security elite or the electorate. This is one reason why the extremists have controlled the narrative and may offer cover to those in the new administration that want to stall Space Force rather than eliminate an already existing institution.
In an interview with the NYT on March 8th, General Raymond, U.S. Space Force Chief of Space Operations, summarized the new branch’s importance: “I think it’s really important for the average American to understand access to space and freedom to maneuver in space is a vital interest.”
The benefit to the American people protected by our Space Force Guardians is immeasurable. Any professional looking at the future of American national security realizes that this security will depend on which power exercises military primacy and space governance.
Thus, there will no longer be a separation between what we call national security and space strategy, to be precise. They will literally and figuratively be the same. Let that sink into any reader as one evaluates the need for the U.S. Space Force. The benefits and threats from space will dwarf those on Earth.
All of those benefits and threats on Earth will ultimately be decided by space strategy.
The mightiest Carrier Task Force, tank platoon, or bomb squadron will be utterly vulnerable to space-based threats just as the medieval fortress became almost useless versus mobile artillery and, later on, warplanes.
China and Russia are embarked on complimentary space policies to beat us in space. They already have their versions of a militarized space branch, and more importantly, space dominance doctrines that are specifically designed to dethrone the United States from its military and economic position.
Thus, a newsflash for opponents or those that mock Space Force is this: space was militarized long ago and continues to be militarized. Russia and China fully intend to amplify this regardless of American efforts, including diplomacy and or negotiations.
The coming economic revolution, the revolution of “New Space,” the revolution of the “triplanetary economy,” will unleash economic forces and powers that will extend economies and resources beyond anything in human history. This econosphere will either be protected by Space Force or left to be exploited by America’s adversaries.
The new space economy will need to be protected, communication will need to be managed, travel and spacecraft control maintained, and debris will need to be cleared. No economic system can exist without the protection of the law, private property, contracts, and protection from hostility, violence, chaos, and criminality.
The future of WMD defense, cyber defense, energy production, environmental protection, and democratic values will be entirely dependent on American space strategy.
The creation and success of Space Force now signal to America’s adversaries the seriousness in which we take American security beyond rhetoric.
The Space Force is the foundation to build this security for the future.
‘Star Trek’ hit the airwaves 55 years ago, but the U.S. future in space will be equally as innovative
In September 2019, the then-U.S. Air Force Space Command (before the re-creation of U.S. Space Command and creation of the Space Force) sponsored a workshop titled “The Future of Space 2060 and Implications for U.S. Strategy.” As one of the many authors, presenters and participants, I can attest to this exercise’s value for the future of American national security.
Therefore, it is not surprising that we titled the best outcome for the United States (out of eight future paths, two of which would spell catastrophe for the United States) “Star Trek.” This 2060 future was one where there will be a robust human presence in space. There will be an enormous economic opportunity and, most importantly, it will be led by the United States and our alliance partners.
Now, in 2021 we are observing the 55th anniversary of “Star Trek,” and one can expect a panoply of odes, eulogies, parodies and parallels. Space Force has already been accused of copying Star Fleet’s delta, whereas “Star Trek” copied the delta used before “Star Trek” by the Army Air Force and NASA.
This is a great example, albeit cosmetic, of the problem that critics have of Space Force. They believe that by linking the U.S. Space Force to “Star Trek,” they will somehow discredit the organization. Perhaps, they are trying to take a page from attacks on President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative when instead of debating its many merits, they thought they would castigate it with the moniker “Star Wars.”
We can pause here and offer a lesson in strategy and tactics. If you want to discredit something associated with space in the American public’s eyes, especially potential recruits, don’t use the two most fantastic visions of space and space opera to do it. One would have loved to be in the meetings where someone voiced their proposal and said, “We don’t want Space Force, so what you need to do is convince all those children that if they join, they will be going warp speed and wielding lightsabers.”
If your demographic is people with no vision and imagination, you have yourself a winner.
William Shatner’s article, “William Shatner wants to know: What the heck is wrong with you, Space Force?” Military Times, Aug. 26, 2020, created a stir as he advocated naval instead of Army and Air Force rank by using science fiction standards. His more profound argument revolved around the need for heroes in the public mind, and this would best be done by linking Space Force with science fiction like “Star Trek.”
“Star Trek” offered a vision that was a victory for democratic values. It served and continues to serve as a foil to the anti-hero dystopia that passes for much futurism today. Star Trek exhibited the absolute nature of American values by recoiling at the horror of genocide (“The Conscience of the King”), harpooning futuristic tyrants (“The Apple”) and hippie culture (“The Way of Eden”).
More importantly for Americans is that “Star Trek” represented an American vision of the future. This is not merely a representation of American patriotism but the universal values America champions. This ranged from the cosmetic where Capt. James T. Kirk was from Riverside, Iowa, to “Star Trek” promoting the values of liberty, right reason, frontier spirit and the dignity of human rights.
Star Fleet played the role of a futuristic military and exploration mission. This was akin to the American Army and Navy’s 19th-century exploits and was the sword and shield of these values. Star Fleet promoted a neo-manifest destiny broadening Thomas Jefferson’s “Empire of Liberty” adversaries like the Klingons and Romulans are totalitarian and authoritarian dictatorships bent on destruction and conquest.
My favorite episode that expresses all of this is –- ”The Omega Glory,” where the USS Enterprise’s landing party finds itself thrust into a planetary war between the Yangs (Yankees) and the Kohms (Communists). The Yankees eventually defeat the Communists, and Kirk discovers that their worship words are the American Pledge of Allegiance and the U.S. Constitution. In the famous ending speech, Kirk states: “Among my people, we carry many such words as this from many lands, many worlds. Many are equally good and are as well respected, but wherever we have gone, no words have said this thing of importance in quite this way. Look at these three words written larger than the rest, with a special pride never written before or since …
“‘We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. These words and the words that follow were not written only for the Yangs, but for the Kohms as well!”
I have read countless reviews of this episode from pseudo-intellectual critics who decry the episode as “the worst.” They complain that it is overly patriotic, racist, and impossible for a planet to develop such a parallel conflict.
Kirk, whose hero was Abraham Lincoln, is a good starting point for dismissing this episode’s critics and a “Star Trek” link to the American future. Lincoln, whose classical conservative roots stressed the Declaration of Independence’s universality, founded under the fatherhood of God and under God’s natural law. Lincoln understood that these values transcended time and space and were literally universal. One has to pity the uneducated rabble for their mistakes of ignorance. It is precisely the point that a space dominated by western powers will be a space dominated by the universal values based on the natural law of life, liberty and property.
The creator of “Star Trek,” Gene Roddenberry, a former bomber pilot and policeman, was incredibly proud of “The Omega Glory” when he stated, “It is deserving of a bit of promotion because of its unusual nature and an unusual patriotic theme toward the end of it, plus an unusual aspect involving East-West conflict.”
The Star Fleet of the 1960s upheld the classical liberal values of America’s founding, with statecraft’s classical conservative tools. We should embrace it as the template for the future, an unabashedly American-led one.
American’s tendency to combine an inward-looking obsession with a historical disdain for foreign affairs often produces a false sense of reality. Foreign threats to the United States were and are as great as ever. Russia’s resurgence, China’s rise, Iranian terrorism, and North Korea’s nuclear fantasies continue.
Part of any adversary’s quiver is the use of a false flag. A “false flag” plan is an operation conducted primarily by one nation-state, masquerading as another nation-state or group to bring about the desired result where they are not implicated.
These operations have ranged the gamut from targeting individuals to betray their nation by posing as an ally. China is notorious for having its espionage agents pose as Taiwanese to convince pro-Taiwan individuals to acts of espionage or when the Soviets used a pro-Czarist false flag to kill Sidney Reilly, a British officer whose life inspired James Bond.
The next level would be when individuals are used to create a political or diplomatic incident. Nero blamed Christians for the fires that destroyed Rome in 64 AD and then used those fires to justify the persecution of the Christians afterward. The most infamous modern false flag operation was concocted by the Nazis when they used communist dupes to burn down the Reichstag. This allowed the Nazis to enact emergency powers paving the way for the Nazi dictatorship.
The most significant false flag operations were used to justify World War II. The 1931 Mukden incident designed by the Japanese and the 1939 Nazi Operation Himmler created the conditions for a war of “self-defense.” A more sophisticated false flag operation is when it is used to manipulate public opinion. The Soviets did this through a web of assets and activity during the Reagan years by push/pulling anti-American, anti-nuclear “peace groups” in Europe and the United States.
The above operations will be debated, possibly forever. The line between evil state action and bizarre conspiracy theory is a fine one. Naturally, the very nature of a covert operation is to create two conditions. One gives the offending actor plausible deniability. The other is that the action is so “absurd” that rational people will not believe it.
We have even placed such operations into our popular culture with the infamous quote from Palpatine in Star Wars, who engineers the destabilization of the Republic and then states, “It is with great reluctance that I have agreed to this calling. I love democracy. I love the Republic. Once this crisis has abated, I will lay down the powers you have given me!”
Was the attack on the U.S. Capitol a false flag operation? My answer is as complicated as the event itself.
The only beneficiaries of the summer riots, the Capitol attacks and the current left-wing violence in the Pacific Northwest are America’s adversaries, both foreign and domestic. We already know about Russian, Chinese, Iranian and North Korean cyber-attacks fomenting division in the United States among our citizens. Just as those on the right were willing to accept the links between Antifa and foreign adversaries, those on the left must be willing to take whatever links are found with the extremists who broke into the hallowed halls of Congress.
An effective false flag operation would entirely separate the actors from the intentions, which was how the Nazis used communist terrorists, and the Soviets used western peace activists.
The FBI is investigating a suspicious payment of half a million dollars made in bitcoin by a French national who died shortly after the attack to key figures in what the media has dubbed the “alt-right.” NBC News highlighted the long-standing link between extremist groups and Russia.
We know that the Russian and Chinese government and their proxy outlets have used the incident to denigrate the United States abroad and insult U.S. institutions. Some analysts have argued that some of the tactics used in the U.S. Capitol attack were similar to those used by Russia in the Ukraine and Crimea.
Another suspicious issue is the number of stolen devices and documents that may have classified information, particularly those of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Jeff Merkley, Oregon Democrat. SOFREP reports that their sources in the Pentagon told them that several laptops with classified information were stolen. There have also been questions raised as to whether or not surveillance equipment may have been left behind.
The FBI indicates that the question of foreign involvement is severe enough to provoke an investigation.
It is too early at this juncture to confirm or dismiss the level of foreign involvement in the attack on the U.S. Capitol. It is far too early for the popular media to ignore it. It has been 88 years since the Reichstag Fire, and we are still debating its origins. A profitable intelligence operation by nations that have been running covert operations for over a millennium would seek to cover their tracks and redirect blame.
A simple rule in both diplomacy and intelligence is asking the question of gain. Who has gained from the unrest and violence that has engulfed America from the spring until now? We know the answer is not the American people, and both political parties have suffered the stain of their extreme ends.
The answer points to the actions of extremist groups, which, as history indicates, benefits foreign adversaries whose low bar of risk with a considerable reward, even if propagandistic is great. The silver lining in all of this is that this issue can bring about true American concord as patriots unite against the republic’s foreign and domestic enemies.
Attention must be directed to root problems, not nuclear weapons data points
President Trump’s administration gave great attention to two toxic triangles that this author highlighted, though ignored by the mainstream media. They dubbed the first of these the “Axis of Resistance,” a self-declared malevolence of Iran, Syria and Hamas.
The second underscored by then-National Security Adviser John Bolton was the “Troika of Tyranny” calling out Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
These were categories of evil that share duplicity, violence, atrocity, dictatorship and terrorism.
We are now witnessing the debate of U.S.-Iran relations reach another fever pitch about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. This has always been a morass that deviates one’s attention from the actual story. As important as Iran’s weapons program’s issue is, it fundamentally misses the more significant point: the Iranian regime itself. The root problem is the Iranian regime. The symptom is their nuclear weapons program.
However, not addressing the root problem leaves in place Iran’s Shiite empire-building in the Middle East, their collaboration and alliance with Syria and Russia, their state sponsorship of terrorism, their atrocities against their own people and their missile program.
Related to the media’s misdirection over the Iranian situation is the relationship between Iran and North Korea. This relationship began with the fall of the shah’s government in 1979, when Iran joined North Korea as an enemy of the United States. In the 1980s, Iran purchased ballistic missiles from North Korea, often facilitated by China.
As North Korean missile technology and nuclear weapons research amplified, so did Iranian missile capability, which evolved from missiles with a range of 300km in the ‘80s to a breakthrough in 1995 when Iran received the Nodong missile with a range of 1,300km, allowing Iran to hit Israel. This relationship was a two-way street as Iran provided North Korea with oil and missile test data.
North Korean and Chinese teams frequently were in Iran to train and test, illustrating this toxic relationship. In 2010, Iran received 19 BM-25 missiles with a range of 2,000 miles (3,218 km), placing NATO countries under threat. North Korea’s ability to use Iran as a testing opportunity enhanced its own ability to develop long-range ballistic missiles.
Thus, Iran and North Korea created a synthesis of production, experimentation, testing, development and deployment that allows both to become a nuclear weapons power with ICBM capabilities ultimately. The vaunted and now resurrected JCPOA did nothing to stop this. This relationship is currently helping both parties develop submarine and cruise missile technology.
The relationship has fostered cooperation and exchange in the realms of intelligence, underground facility production and special operations warfare. Both nations seem incredibly interested in potential EMP strikes against the United States.
Further, this partnership extends to dangerous state and non-state actors such as Syria and Hezbollah. The dark possibilities range the gamut from Iranian and North Korean officers training Syrians arming ballistic missiles with their own chemical weapons to the scenarios where one day Hezbollah has a nuclear device are not as far fetched as wishful thinking would desire.
The nuclear threat looms large as another two-way street developed over centrifuge, enrichment, uranium and plutonium. It is clear that North Korea is facilitating Iran, becoming a nuclear weapons power while the United States and Europe debate an agreement dead before it was created.
One of the easiest paths of deception is to become obsessed with statistics rather than intent. Experts from all sides can have logical debates about when North Korea and Iran will have a deployable ICBM or when a “break-out” on a particular nuclear timeline will occur. These are not relevant for the serious policymaker. We have understood the strategic intent of the North Korean and Iranian regimes for decades.
There is long-standing proof of a toxic partnership directed at the heart of the American people. Future policies need to address the root of the problem, not become sucked into a vortex of never-ending debates about data points leading nowhere.
As a young Foreign Service officer without authority or status, one of my first experiences in Washington was attending a debate between the senior foreign policy advisers to Senator Jesse Helms and Joe Biden.
I sat in the small hearing room and listened as both men displayed their acumen as surrogates regarding missile defense and the legacy of President Reagan’s SDI. It astonished me that Biden’s man had so little understanding of realpolitik and, in particular, the goals of our adversaries.
The back and forth continued until the Biden representative retreated into the old canard that the SDI vision could not be accomplished regardless of the political issues because of the problem of technology. During the Q&A, I distinguished myself as a member of the minority in the audience by asking the following question. I still ask today: “In the end, your argument is about a lack of technology and innovation, but that is not your real problem, if we had the technology today, would you still be against it? Is your real problem a disdain for American primacy?”
This vignette, reported to you by less than a bit player, was a colossal change for me. The exchange ultimately led to my introduction and friendship to one of the most outstanding Americans of the age, Ambassador Jim Lilley. The contrast to the vision of Ambassador Lilley and that of the Biden campaign could not be greater. It also serves as a microcosm that haunts Vice President Biden’s record and trajectory on foreign policy and national security.
It is, at its core, a view with no vision and without a strategy. It fails to embrace the very roots of successful American national security strategy, based on Primacy, Democracy Promotion, Preemption, and Prevention, all within the greater sphere of American exceptionalism and superiority.
A review of Vice President Biden’s foreign policy failures has been done and redone. Some have less meaning to the youngest generation, but for those of us in Generation X and older, much will resonate.
As far back as 1975, he showed his true colors opposing support of our South Vietnamese ally following American withdrawal and withholding assistance for South Vietnamese refugees requested by President Ford. In the 1980s, he fought support for the anti-communist resistance in Nicaragua and the anti-communist government of El Salvador. In the 1990s, he voted against Operation Desert storm to expel Saddam from Kuwait and, of course, opposed the National Missile Defense Act.
In the 21st century, he opposed the surge in Iraq that saved Iraq from further civil war and national disintegration. He even openly advocated that Iraq should destroy its sovereignty by dividing the country into three parts, a plan that would have been the greatest gift to Iran that could be conceived. He was consistently critical of President Bush’s foreign policy to right the ship of state from the disastrous Clinton years.
Naturally, as vice president, he supported President Obama’s trio of appeasement, apology, and “leading from behind.” Many are aware of Obama’s Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ quotation:
“I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades.”
Gates was right. He opposed moving the American embassy to Jerusalem and advocated a “two-state” solution. The same mantras that the Democratic Party has supported for decades leading to inaction and negative inertia. He was integral to an administration that allowed the people of Syria to live in a forever nightmare, failed to prosecute the war on terror, opposed the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden, and squandered the successes that President Bush bequeathed them.
He continues to advocate a tactical rather than strategic response to counter-terrorism, returning to a Clinton-Obama policy that created the weaknesses in our defenses. As one architect of the Iran deal, he offers no solution to the fundamental problem of the Iranian regime and its imperial dreams.
China was and is Biden’s mixed bag; until he decided to run for president, Biden advocated more significant trade relations with China, downplayed their human rights abuses, has been ambiguous about Taiwan, and ignored their military modernization, attempts at dominating space and strategic aggressiveness. His current rhetoric is more hawkish, but his record is the opposite.
Russia is perhaps the strangest odyssey for not just Joe Biden, but also the Democratic party. One would wish Truman or Kennedy’s spirit was pushing them to talk tough, but this would not be accurate. Clinton, Obama and Biden were all part of the group that downplayed the Soviet and then Russian threat. They consistently mocked conservatives and Republicans (Romney-Obama debate) who warned of both. Only when they thought they could use Russia as an election tool against President Trump did they suddenly wake up to a Russian threat.
The very people who exposed the United States to the machinations and aggression of Soviet and then Russian foreign policy now expect the American electorate to believe they have had a change of heart and have morphed into stone-cold realists.
The most worrying aspect regarding specific policy is Vice President Biden’s total lack of vision regarding space, space policy, the new Space Force and the recognition that all the above will determine the future of American national security. His vigorous opposition to the Strategic Defense Initiative and national missile defense grants us a window that his attitude here is one of feebleness.
Ultimately, we elect someone whose primary job is to manage American grand strategy, not a health adviser, curriculum planner, job officer or tax accountant. This, at a minimum, requires a president to understand the grand arc of American history and its trajectory toward the horizon and the stars. Biden’s lack of policy coherence and consistency, combined with his denial of American exceptionalism, will place the Republic on dangerous ground.
The Trump administration’s creation, in late 2019, of the U.S. Space Force, as a free-standing branch of the American armed forces and concurrently the reestablishment of the U.S. Space Command, has brought new and much-needed attention to what is a critical emerging domain: space. What remains lacking, however, is a broader strategy to properly frame and articulate American priorities in the space domain, and to guide U.S. conduct within it.
Such a strategy begins with a mapping of cislunar space, a domain that encompasses near-space environment between Earth and the Moon. Cislunar space is the space between the Earth’s atmosphere and the area right beyond the orbit of the Moon. Strategically, cislunarincludes the Lagrange points, which are the points in space where there is an equilibrium between Earth’s and Luna’s gravitational force. It is an area that holds military, political, cultural and economic consequences that will determine the success or failure of American strategic primacy for the 21st century and beyond.
Russia and China have surpassed the U.S. in the military space sector, as well as in the development of civilian space.
Their innovations include China’s proposed work in Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) and testing of anti-satellite weapons, as well as Russia’s advancement of hypersonic missiles. China intends to build space vessels that utilize nuclear propulsion, colonize the moon, and potentially create areas of anti-access and area denial in space. This activity belies the geopolitical imperative of primacy, now playing out in a new strategic domain.
Development of the near-space economy will require economic and industrial output and innovation that will fundamentally change the international economic system in ways not seen since the transformation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. It will also require mankind to reorient its economic system as a whole.
Over time, space transport will revolutionize the global economy generally and several industries in particular—namely, aerospace & defense, IT hardware, telecom sectors, space tourism, package delivery, and energy. It will be energy that might have the most immediate and direct impact on the lives of Americans, as it will eliminate many of the problems surrounding climate change and conflict over fossil fuels.
Many of those who oppose the Space Force did so because they see space as primarily a realm of exploration and scientific interest. Yet if we want it to become more, an arena for commerce and innovation, we will need to ensure its safety and security. That, in turn, requires a new type of military thinking.
THE ECONOMICS OF NEAR SPACE
Any discussion of space development needs to begin with a basic question: is it worth it? While the projected evolution of a space economy is still conceptual in nature, it is already clear that the benefits of space development will be innumerable.
As it stands, the realm of space represents a nascent—and as yet mostly untapped—market. An increase in space satellites would facilitate a faster and more reliable internet on Earth, as well as reinforce the speed and reliability of calling and messaging on terrestrial telecom networks. Shipping capabilities in space could also be a growth industry, and eventually blasting a payload into space will become less costly and faster than shipping across an ocean or via commercial aircraft. Asteroid mining is also a likely space industry—and potentially an extremely lucrative one. Resources that are often scarce on Earth are many times as plentiful on asteroids across the galaxy.
Over time, space transport will revolutionize the global economy generally and several industries in particular—namely, aerospace & defense, IT hardware, telecom sectors, space tourism, package delivery, and energy. It will be energy that might have the most immediate and direct impact on the lives of Americans, as it will eliminate many of the problems surrounding climate change and conflict over fossil fuels. This will be especially true if America becomes the leader of spacebased solar power.
The creation of strategic trade routes in “near space” will hearken back to the change in trade and globalization during the Renaissance. The term “globalization” will need to be altered, and a new term such as “cosmosization” will replace it in more than a name. The NASA Gateway project (see Figure 1), which will be built in orbit around the Moon, will deliver goods, services, and personnel to and from the lunar surface. (1)
This mission currently depends on the Space Launch System (SLS) and Orion spacecraft.
This new economic revolution will grow exponentially from its inception. Morgan Stanley estimates that the “space industry” will generate 350 billion dollars annually, a figure which could grow to $3 trillion a year if this system begins to be implemented. (2)
This, however, does not even account for the upward changes created by the continually evolving technology created by the space economy as it evolves.
In order for this to happen, however, an industrial reorientation is necessary. Simply focusing on exploration and scientific discovery are not sustainable economic and strategic models purely in themselves. Development of the near-space economy will require economic and industrial output and innovation that will fundamentally change the international economic system in ways not seen since the transformation that accompanied the Industrial Revolution. It will also require mankind to reorient its economic system as a whole. This imperative may be hard for many people to grasp, but it is also why America will have the best chance to lead this new economic revolution. After all, it was America that landed men on the Moon and answered the call of President Kennedy’s dream. American culture and history are infused with the ability to pivot and adapt and innovate. It will need a rebirth of the frontier spirit and a declaration that what famed historian Frederick Jackson Turner said in 1893, that the closed frontier has been reopened on a much grander scale.
This, in turn, requires us to seriously tackle the matter of security in space. Many of those who oppose the Space Force did so because they see space as primarily a realm of exploration and scientific interest. Yet if we want it to become more, an arena for commerce and innovation, we will need to ensure its safety and security.
That, in turn, requires a new type of military thinking.
In the context of space, security can be viewed on two levels. The first is international security – that is, the security of the international system as a whole. The second is the security of the western alliance: western nation-states (including the U.S.), their allies, their economy, their values, and their political culture. A serious plan for the former, if carried out by America and its partners, will necessarily serve to bolster the latter.
Currently, the global system has no protection against an extinction-level event, nor is there an alternative for human civilization to escape a disaster. At first blush, this state of affairs may seem acceptable, but it becomes decidedly less so once one grasps the dangers posed by asteroid collisions, a Carrington Event (solar storm), and a number of other existential dangers.
The current coronavirus pandemic provides a case in point; although far from a civilization-ending event, the disease has nonetheless illustrated the weaknesses, vulnerabilities and gaps in our ability to protect national populations, as well as the fact that there is no alternative but to do so.
The same holds true for space. As the United States moves more and more into the space domain, the imperative will grow for the nascent economy there to be protected. On a mundane level, it will need to be protected from space debris, which can wreak havoc on space-based technologies such as satellites. There will also need to be a defense against a breakdown in communication or travel.
But other security needs prevail as well. No economic system can viably exist without adequate safeguards. That is the reason nations, irrespective of political and ideological outlook, have uniformly created penalties for threats to private property, penalized breach of contract, and provided security from hostility, violence, chaos, and criminality. There should be no doubt that a new economic revolution in space will foster the same challenges there. From the potential of electronic disruption to the (currently fanciful) notion of space piracy, the space domain will assuredly face potential criminality and sabotage as it develops. Assuring that this disorder stays at a minimum will go a long way toward instilling confidence in the emerging space economy.
Therein lies the conceptual case for a more robust American military presence in space. On June 18, 2018, President Trump changed the space dynamic by ordering the DOD to create a new sixth branch of the military entitled the Space Force, whose job will be to unify American national security concerns regarding Space. It was created as part of the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act. The current mission is to train, equip, and organize forces for space. In August of 2019, the United States reactivated U.S. Space Command as a unified combatant command whose job currently is to “conducts operations in, from, and to space to deter conflict, and if necessary, defeat aggression, deliver space combat power for the Joint/Combined force, and defend U.S. vital interests with allies and partners.”
A LOOK AHEAD AT A TRIPLANETARY PROJECT
The Triplanetary project, encompassing the Earth/Moon/Mars (see Figure 2), is an idea which recognizes that the strategic future of the United States in specific, and the western alliance in general, is not confined to cislunar space, and extends out to Mars as a way of ensuring prosperity for humanity. The name is more for literary purposes rather than literal, as the Moon isn’t actually a planet, but the project itself envisions a future of robust commerce and safe human transport spanning the range of space between Earth and Mars.
Space explorers, colonizers, and entrepreneurs see Mars as the future crown jewel.
“Newspace” advocates view Mars as the initial epicenter of a serious human presence among the stars. However, there are several developments that need to be completed in order for this dream to become a reality. The first stage of a Triplanetary economy would be an exchange of goods and services between two Earth-based entities in space (the Earth and Moon). An asteroid mining company may lead the economic impetus that will send raw extractions to a “floating” base, or to a moon-based processing plant where the minerals and metals can be extracted and used. Future stages would expand from Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) and cislunar space on to the Moon, and then Mars. (3)
Basic resource use will eventually become trade, communication, and energy production, and finally move from a human presence to colonization. Ultimately, this will set the conditions for an even farther stage of interstellar exploration and expansion.
The Moon is a stepping stone to the future, but Mars will be an important next objective as it has comparatively more to offer for human colonization. Solar energy can generate power on the Moon and Mars, but Mars has the possibility of wind power and has greater ability to support agriculture and create a more “indigenous” civilization than does the Moon. Mars has the potential for rich and profitable mineral supplies, especially Deuterium—a fundamental element for nuclear power, particularly with the promise of fusion. Furthermore, there is today a discussion about “terraforming” the environment to eventually make it possible to create a stable civilization on a place like Mars, which scientists think could be rich in nitrogen, hydrogen, carbon, copper, sulfur, water, and ice. The NASA Gateway project and the Trump Moon-Mars Development project provide early glimpses into the possibilities that an economic zone that encompasses Mars has to offer. (4)
The Triplanetary project will be the launchpad to a permanent human presence in this arena and beyond.
Throughout their existence, nations encounter pivot points – moments where they can choose between disaster and surrender or triumph and victory. A failure to expend the needed time and resources to plan for the future can lead to military disasters, and even to civilizational downfall. History is rife with such examples: Athens during the Peloponnesian Wars (404 BC), the Roman Empire in 476 AD, China in the 19th century (which suffered three stunning military defeats, in 1842, 1860, and 1895), France in 1940, and so on. In each case, there was a failure to appreciate the technological and strategic advancements that no longer conformed to past doctrine. History is littered with those who lacked the requisite foresight and imagination to properly adapt and seize the moment.
America is no different. In 1897, the famed officer and strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan took note of the last time the United States faced such a challenge—with the inception of what is now the U.S. Navy. He wrote: “Those who hold that our political interests are confined to matters within our borders, and are unwilling to admit that circumstances may compel us in the future to political action without them, look with dislike and suspicion upon the growth of a body [the navy] whose very existence indicates that nations have international duties as well as international rights, and that international complications will arise from which we can no more escape than the states which have preceded us in history or those contemporary with us.” (5)
Mahan was warning that the high seas had increasingly opened new vistas for commerce and communication, and the nation that invests in new seapower capabilities would therefore inevitably dominate the globe. The ingenuity and power of the aircraft carrier subsequently fulfilled Mahan’s prediction, ushering an era of American maritime—and ultimately global—dominance.
The United States faces the same need to innovate again today. For policymakers, this imperative presents simple yet weighty choices: will America lead in space, where it can create and facilitate a new economic revolution, bolster the democratic international order, and dominate the next great battlefield? Or will it cede that advantage to others, with potentially ruinous consequences for American primacy and global stability?
Whether Washington likes it or not, a scramble for space is inevitable, and in fact is already well underway. Today, both Russia and China have surpassed the U.S. in the military space sector, as well as in the development of civilian space. Their innovations include China’s proposed work in Space-Based Solar Power (SBSP) and testing of anti-satellite weapons, as well as Russia’s advancement of hypersonic missiles. China intends to build space vessels that utilize nuclear propulsion, colonize the moon, and potentially create areas of anti-access and area denial in space. This activity belies the geopolitical imperative of primacy, now playing out in a new strategic domain.
Notably, Russia and China have been quite open about their ambitions. Both countries have recognized that nations that dominate space will end up dominating the globe. These nations are now angling for space dominance, and for good reason. The civilization that is the first to establish a durable presence in space will have the most vibrant and dynamic economy, the most advanced, high-paying jobs, and a technological edge that is second to none. Moreover, the potential for adversaries to put offensive weapons in space will blunt current American military superiority. U.S. aircraft carriers and land-based missiles will simply become convenient targets. China or Russia’s ability to dominate either energy or communication will make other nations into technological vassal states. As such, nothing short of America’s current superpower status is at stake.
In order for the United States to maintain its position of primacy, the country must embrace a reinvigorated space strategy. America will need to progress beyond a mere space program, and lead a new military, economic and scientific revolution that will determine mankind’s destiny. The stakes here are high; the nation that achieves space dominance will win future military conflicts. The 5000-year evolution and history of military technology have confirmed this trajectory.
Objects in Low Earth Orbit (LEO) travel between 99 and 1200 miles above the surface of the Earth and have an orbital period (the time it takes for the object to orbit the Earth of between 88 and 127 minutes). LEO is where the majority of manmade space technology currently exists, such as the International Space Station. Geosynchronous Equatorial Orbit (GEO) Is where objects are in high orbit above 22,000 miles match Earth’s rotation (24 hours), which is useful for communications and surveillance satellites. Cislunar space is the space between the Earth’s atmosphere and the area right beyond the orbit of the Moon. Strategically, cislunar includes the Lagrange points, which are the points in space where there is an equilibrium between Earth’s and Luna’s gravitational force.