‘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.
China engaged in high-level saber-rattling and boldness when Chinese Politburo member and State Councilor Yang Jiechi used the muscular red-line term in diplomacy.
“We in China hope that the United States will rise above the outdated mentality of zero-sum, major-power rivalry and work with China to keep the relationship on the right track,” Yang said on February 2, 2021, in a speech to the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations.
He exhorted the U.S. to stop “harassing Chinese students, restricting Chinese media outlets, shutting down Confucius Institutes and suppressing Chinese companies.” He said Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet, and Xinjiang affairs were a “red line that must not be crossed.”
As I have written about before, the famous diplomatic red line’s origins transport us back to the Roman Republic. It revolved around a meeting between the Roman ambassador and the King of the Seleucid Empire, threatening Egypt’s Roman protectorate in 168 B.C.
The meager Roman mission was to force the king to return to Syria. The exchange between the two, as the story itself, has many variations. Initially, the Seleucid’s laugh at such a paltry show of force until the lone-old ambassador draws a line in the sand and says that he had better be marching toward Syria when he steps across the line, not Egypt.
The king retreated, and the red line was born. The concept of a red line was reborn in the contemporary period during the Obama administration when on August 20, 2012, Obama declared an American red line if Assad used chemical weapons again. The Assad regime continued to use them, and there were no dire consequences. The administration had failed in their weak attempt to learn from antiquity.
This vacillation was the bane of the Obama years. The diminishment of American credibility abroad, the self-loathing of American exceptionalism, and the inability to take a firm stand against the worst tyrants, all while hollowing out the U.S. military.
If we parse Communist bombast, we are left with the following: China, which wishes to be the sole superpower by the 100th anniversary of the PRC’s founding in 2049, hopes for the USA to stop an “outdated mentality.”
If there was ever a self-evident difference between the kind of nation the United States is versus others, it is here. We issued a red line to stop an evil regime from using weapons of mass destruction on their people, and China issues a red line to engage in the same style of evil at home and abroad.
The China red-line speech reflects a very typical Chinese diplomatic style: mix threat, friendliness and victimhood in the same statement and policy.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken responded by stating, “that the United States will work together with its allies and partners in defense of our shared values and interests to hold the [People’s Republic of China] accountable for its efforts to threaten stability in the Indo-Pacific, including across the Taiwan Strait, and its undermining of the rules-based international system.”
China responded by dialing up the temperature on its original red-line rhetoric when Ambassador for the PRC to the United States Cui Tiankai belittled America in an interview stating that America “still shows the example of power rather than the power of example. You don’t have an effective foreign policy just by talking tough or playing tough. This is not the right way of doing diplomacy.”
China has recently escalated its hostile posture toward Taiwan with continuous probing into Taiwanese airspace. It further plans to engage in a “trilateral naval exercise” with Russia and Iran in the Indian Ocean.
China’s neo-Maoist ideology, combined with anti-democratic propaganda, a self-righteous persona, mixed with revanchist psychology, is a toxic atmosphere that the United States must stand against at every point globally. China needs to be taught the real meaning of a Roman red line.
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.
During the next four years, the man who occupies the presidency will face many serious challenges, none of which received any attention during the last election cycle or, bizarrely, any time during the presidential debates.
The American people may pay a high price for the media’s inability to prioritize, engage, and understand foreign affairs and international relations.
This is not a discussion of every foreign policy problem the president will face. The realm of strategic flashpoints is the area least likely addressed by the media since these are long-term strategic issues fundamentally based on geopolitics and astropolitics.
Thus, a brief primer will illustrate the strategic challenges the president will face. These are best exemplified by the potential flashpoints that condense the national security decision process into a short period. Eleven likely flashpoints could erupt during the next four years to some degree or another. Seven of the 10 involve China in a significant way.
The four remaining primarily involve Russia.
The first two Russian flashpoints are the Euro-Russian frontier stretching from Poland to Romania, and the second is the Baltics. These potential eruptions are all within the context that the EU is in directionless chaos. Russia continues to bully the Baltic and utilizes the ethnic Russian population as a potential menace while threatening to use gray-zone-hybrid warfare to destabilize Baltic independence.
They couple this with the Russian Air Force’s continual harassment of NATO forces and airspace. Now that the Baltic states are full partners in NATO, Russia’s attempt to use any type of force or threat of force must be considered an attack on American national interests.
Russia’s shadow is just as dark when it comes to Russia on the eastern European frontier. Russia has attempted to use energy as a weapon and campaigns hard to drive wedges between the east part of NATO and the core western powers. Needless to say, the threat of a “Soviet” style conventional attack has never evaporated.
Finally, we have Russia’s overt use of conventional strength and expansion into the Arctic, setting the stage for major territorial and resource grab.
The Middle East is a perennial hotspot, but it crosses into great power conflict with Russia’s specter. Russia’s power projection into Syria and its unholy relationship with Iran bolsters the two of the three worst regimes on the planet (the third being North Korea, which maintains close ties to the others.) Any calculation for American actions in Syria or Iran must factor in the Russian equation at some level, even if it is actively to ignore it.
The remaining seven flashpoints center on China’s hostile actions. Those don’t consider the tipping point where western nations will no longer take a passive attitude toward China’s human rights abuses. The next three flashpoints all have to do with China’s strategic maneuvering in Asia. China’s march toward hegemony is finding a demonstration in the South China Sea, which at some point could explode into an outright territorial grab beyond what they have done up to this point.
China’s naval actions make all of her neighbors in the Sea of Japan very nervous. China’s continued backing of the totalitarian regime in North Korea allows that regime a free hand to engage in nuclear weapons development and genocide at home and weapons proliferation abroad.
Two other flashpoints are in and around the sub-continent. The Indian Ocean and the Sino-Indian border illustrate India and China’s tension and conflict as India attempts to rebuff an Asia dominated by her enemy.
The 10th flashpoint is exceptionally dangerous. The potential for naval conflict or a maritime dispute that escalates again relates to China’s power projection, with conflict zones in and around the Taiwan and Tsushima straits a possibility.
Finally, and most importantly, is the realm of space power and space economics. The next few years will determine space leadership. China makes a clear bid for space supremacy with concrete policies and advances that will need to be aggressively and vigorously countered. We are the opening act of a real space opera.
All of these potential flashpoints will either not erupt or will be short-lived based on American decisions. America’s role as the dominant world power has created order, stability, and hope. Any American retreat from this role will enhance violence and chaos.
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.
Sept. 2, 2020 will mark the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, an event monumental enough to deserve our remembrance. Japan’s formal surrender occurred aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, in Tokyo Bay.
However, more significant than this, it marked the end of a multi-century epoch and the beginning of a new one.
Americans today live in the shadow of the end of the Second World War like no other event in international affairs. As hard as some try, the legacy of the American victory at the cost of over one million American casualties shines as a beacon of national and individual sacrifice, demonstrating the character of American exceptionalism.
More importantly, the failure of America, to turn the tide would have meant a global descent into chaos, evil, and horror.
As hard as our allies fought, it was American blood, treasure, and leadership that determined the outcome.
America had to fight the triple threat of German Nazism, Italian Fascism, and Japanese Militarism and then immediately pivot against Soviet Communism.
If this was not divine providence, nothing was.
The war did not just up-end the dictatorships of Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo, but ended the multi-century international relations period of multi-polarity and ushered in a tense bi-polarity between the United States and the Soviet Union placing the United States as the only defender of human liberty and human dignity.
This is the role we continue in today and will continue into the new space age.
The prior global system was dominated by an era of multiple great powers whose thinking was dominated by irredentism, racism, expansionism, the birth of communism, and imperialism.
The western powers, self-doubting and self-loathing as some on the left engage in today, had attempted the twin titanic failures of isolationism and appeasement because they doubted the rightness and goodness of their own societies.
The end of the war began an American grand strategy and national security that championed democracy abroad as a way to both secure national interests and promote its moral values.
It produced a Pax Americana of international order, civil society, institution building, human rights, free trade, and progress.
This point cannot be overemphasized: American promotion of the empire of liberty has never simply been about elections; it has always been about civil society and liberty under law, whose most tremendous success was illustrated with the creation of a new Germany and Japan under American guidance.
The end of the Second World War created a profound change in American thinking about national security and defense.
The term “national security” came out of this period, and the Truman administration quickly realized that it had to steer a new course for America.
America needed a permanent national security system to forestall another Pearl Harbor and to keep Soviet imperialism at bay. It understood the need for a permanent and sizeable professional military, a new branch of the armed services in the U.S. Air Force, a permanent new intelligence service in the CIA, and a new body to advise the president, the National Security Council.
All of these foundations we rely on today come out of the aftermath of VJ Day (Victory Over Japan Day).
America resisted the calls to return to a self-absorbed, inward-looking fool’s paradise.
The United States took the more challenging road and not only built a Republic devoted to liberty at home but liberty abroad as well.
America unleashed forces that would give hope to nations and people seeking independence, and the desire to throw off the tyrant’s yoke put men on the moon and became the engine of a global economy based and stability and prosperity.
My father, who was a combat paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne during the war mirrored most of his citizen soldiers in that they sought no great accolades or triumphal arches, just the understanding they had fought for the most remarkable civilization humans had ever created.
In short, America went from a great power to a power for greatness in a single generation.
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.
It has and is fashionable to decry President Harry Truman and his decision to use the atomic bomb against the Japanese empire during the Second World War.
The decision has been mutated by the educational and media establishment, which seeks to cast the judgment as incompetence, but more likely, decries it as evil.
Like so much lost in America today, there is no appreciation for the history of this period, and more importantly, the existential struggle the United States faced against the Axis powers, and then immediately with the Soviet Union. In case some readers are unaware, the term “existential,” when applied to foreign affairs literally, means that the civilization involved will cease to exist if the decisions are wrong.
It’s probably difficult for those who possess little education, however much they might have on paper, to fully grasp the horrendous struggle America engaged in from 1941 to 1945.
They are less likely to understand how close to defeat we came on several occasions.
It’s lost on many that had the United States lost a few pivotal battles like Normandy, and Midway, the entire outcome of the war would have changed.
It’s also beyond the scope of many to fully grasp the casualty rates that America suffered.
Contemporary Americans may be shocked to know that America suffered 6,000 casualties on the first day of Normandy, and 49,000 during the battle of Okinawa.
One should pause here because part of Truman’s decision was because of the casualty rates that came in from Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Truman’s decision followed the absurd fighting in places like Iwo Jima and Okinawa and, more importantly, the projected casualties (as reported to Secretary of War Stimson) of Operations Olympic and Coronet (the projected conventional invasion of Japan) to be over 1 million Americans and 5 to 10 million Japanese.
Other myths and fairytales have grown up surrounding the decision to drop the bombs on Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9.
We must keep in mind that the United States had three total bombs, one of which had already been used during the New Mexico test.
The most common myths associated with Truman and this period need a quick dispelling:
Truman had a committee considering alternatives, including using the bomb as a demonstration or continuing the much more horrific option of enforced starvation through a blockade. He also wanted to ensure that the targets made political and cultural sense, and therefore Tokyo and Kyoto were not ultimately targeted.
Truman’s decision was also affected by the growing kamikaze casualties and the militarists of Japan, who clearly stated that it would be better for Japan to be destroyed than surrender. Finally, it must be remembered the Soviets invaded Japan in between the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The question of whether Japan today would have been better off being divided like Korea is one that is easy to answer with an emphatic no.
Can the Japanese people or we even conceive of what the horrors and genocide inside a Peoples Republic (North Japan) of Japan would have looked like?
Finally, an item rarely discussed is that both the Germans and the Japanese were working on their own atomic bomb projects. We know the Soviets were stealing ours during our creation of it.
It’s worth reflecting on what kind of world would have existed if any of those powers would have had a first nuclear weapon, and worse, an atomic monopoly.
The decision to drop the atomic bombs was the hardest any president faced. Truman exhibited the first taste of his national security doctrine with this decision, and it was one that he neither relished nor regretted.
The dropping of the bombs ended the war in the Pacific and saved millions of allied soldiers and Japanese civilian lives. It blunted the immediate Soviet threat and gave the West breathing room to deal with the looming Communist threat that sought world domination through the spread of evil, misery, and terror.
Seventy-five years ago, the Allied victory against the Axis was on the horizon. The crisis in international relations was only beginning. For almost 100 years, the world suffered under what international relations scholars clinically refer to as a “multi-polar” world system. Prior to that, there was a brief period of stability with the Pax Britannica from 1815 to 1871. Taking the long view of history, minus the brief period of British stability, the world had 1,500 years of great and small power conflict, starting with the fall of the Roman empire. This “system” of constant warfare, chaos, lawlessness and violence came to a crashing end in 1945 when the world experienced, arguably, for the only time in world history, a bipolar division between the USA and the USSR.
Two allied conferences occurred in the late winter and mid-summer of 1945. These conferences were designed to end the war and to sow the seeds for the future world system. The failure of the United States at Yalta pre-determined a problem at Potsdam and should remind us that when a liberal (Wilsonian) view of diplomacy is held, the interests of the United States are never met. This can best be translated by the idea that when the deal itself becomes more important than the mission, the United States always loses. We can see this conflict dynamic today over Iran created by the Obama administration and North Korea, created by the Clinton administration and the overall liberal failures regarding relations with Russia and China. Those forces that seek victory through a declaration of a deal versus those who see victory through American interests.
In February 1945, the sickly Roosevelt attended his last conference at the Crimean resort of Yalta. He believed he needed the Soviet Union to defeat the Japanese and therefore issued his call for free elections in Europe merely as a face-saving device; he received a promise from the Soviet Union that it would enter the U.N.
Roosevelt believed that a Soviet sphere of influence was a reality and opposing it was not worth the risk of the Soviet Union not entering the U.N. or the war against Japan. He saw few alternatives, as he did not believe the American public would accept more casualties over a war with the Soviets. Roosevelt’s obsession with the Grand Alliance blinded him to the future catastrophe that awaited the United States during the Cold War and beyond. Roosevelt’s obsession over the ideal of the deal, for him, the U.N., blinded him to the reality on the ground. His insistence on unconditional surrender had merit until opportunities in Germany in 1944 presented a different picture. Roosevelt’s doctrine of fighting in Europe first, then Japan, made grand strategy sense, as did his use of the presidency to rebuild the U.S. military as much as he could before the war started. His role as a wartime leader is untarnished, but his view of grand strategy was mixed and murky.
Roosevelt’s appeasement of the Soviets at Yalta led to the problems of Potsdam. He traded liberalism and realism like a horse broker, compromising over Poland to get Soviet promises over Japan and the United Nations, arguing to advisers that he could “work with Stalin.”
The infamous Yalta Conference Declaration was made on February 11, 1945. Although it reiterated unconditional surrender and the need to punish the evil of the Nazis, it also guaranteed that liberated Europe would be treated under the terms of the Atlantic Charter. For all of FDR’s railing against appeasement, Yalta seemed to appease the Soviets.
FDR was attempting to lay the foundations for the Grand Alliance to outlast the war and thought that accommodating the Soviets was worth this price. This strand of thought continued throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, with those advocating accommodation to get some perceived concession by sacrificing American values.
The new U.N., FDR’s ultimate legacy of liberal internationalism, was supposed to be an “instrument of American leadership.” Mirroring Wilson, FDR seemed to be willing to sacrifice genuine issues, such as Poland, on the altar of international organization participation. FDR saw the so-called four policemen dividing up law and order for the world with Great Britain in Western Europe, the Soviet Union in Eastern Europe, the United States in the Western Hemisphere and the Pacific and China in the rest of Asia. These spheres of influence would contain Germany and Japan and also solidify American internationalism. Wilson had conducted even worse diplomacy to get international support for the League of Nations, arguably sowing one of the major seeds causing the Second World War.
Harry Truman became president because of the death of FDR in April 1945. Truman immediately faced two immense national security decisions, one of which — the decision to use nuclear weapons — no leader and no human had ever faced before. The other was the Potsdam Conference from July 16 to August 2, 1945. The “Big Three” were Truman, Stalin and Churchill, who was replaced by Atlee. The only person to have attended all of these was Stalin. When Truman was vice president, he had been locked out of national security and foreign policy decisions by FDR, and he was only allowed to meet with FDR twice.
Potsdam was a strange conference in that it occurred after the German defeat but prior to the surrender of Japan, which many did not foresee until 1947. During the Potsdam Conference, Truman was informed about the successful test of the atomic bomb in Alamogordo, New Mexico. Truman informed Stalin that America had a superweapon, not realizing that Soviet intelligence had already provided Stalin with more information than Truman probably had. The result of the Potsdam Conference was the Potsdam Declaration of July 26, 1945, calling for the unconditional surrender and occupation of Japan. It promised that if Japan did not surrender, “the alternative for Japan is prompt and utter destruction.”
The Potsdam Conference sowed the seeds of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union by dividing Germany and Austria into four occupation zones and doing the same for the city of Berlin. It pledged to treat Germany as a single nation and to de-Nazify the government and society. The failure of the Japanese to accept the conditions of the Potsdam Declaration led Truman to authorize the dropping of the only remaining two atomic bombs that the United States possessed — on Hiroshima on August 6 and on Nagasaki on August 9. There were reasonable military and political reasons to use the bombs.
Truman’s radio report on August 9, 1945, to the American people, after Potsdam illustrated the initial goals of the U.S. national security policy, his desire to work hand-in-hand with the U.N., his frustration over past conference agreements (especially over Poland) and his defense of using the atomic bomb:
“We must do all we can to spare her from the ravages of any future breach of the peace. That is why, though the United States wants no territory or profit or selfish advantage out of this war, we are going to maintain the military bases necessary for the complete protection of our interests and of world peace. Bases which our military experts deem to be essential for our protection and which are not now in our possession, we will acquire . . . The question of Poland was a most difficult one. Certain compromises about Poland had already been agreed upon at the Crimea conference. They obviously were binding upon us at Berlin . . . Our victory in Europe was more than a victory of arms. It was a victory of one way of life over another. It was a victory of an ideal founded on the rights of the common man, on the dignity of the human being, on the conception of the State as the servant — and not the master — of its people. A free people showed that it was able to defeat professional soldiers whose only moral arms were obedience and the worship of force.”
He believed at Potsdam and afterward that the only thing the Russians understood was force.
Truman salvaged FDR’s titanic mistakes at Yalta as best he could. In 1947 he declared what became known as the Truman Doctrine, which combined American realist interests with its democratic values righting the ship of state and creating the only successful template for American national security. Truman’s legacy has guided successful foreign policy since that time, namely a foreign policy that confidently faces the future based on robust strength, clear national interests and democratic values.