Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)

Monday, January 22, 2007

Star Wars, the Strategic Defense Initiative, and Human Travel to Mars

[Editor's Note: the following post was written by Mort Frank, member of the WILPF Philadelphia branch Military Affairs Committee in response to "Look Up! Is It a Threat? Or a Plea for a Ban?," by William J. Broad in the Sunday NY Time's Week in Review.]

William J. Broad discusses only the first of these in The New York Times Week in Review of January 21, 2007, but he might well have been discussing all three. What they have in common is that they are all Government-sponsored crackpot ideas consuming huge amounts of money. SDI has already demonstrated it can't work. Steps to enable human travel to Mars, which are just getting under way, face insurmountable technical pitfalls. "Star Wars," – which refers to the preparation of missiles or other satellites, to destroy the satellites of an enemy, such as China – presumes large scale war with that enemy.

The impossibility of SDI has been evident for decades, and big money still continues to get spent. Even if human travel to Mars were to work, data collection by human explorers could not be nearly as useful or efficient as what is already accomplished by robots. The problem of insecurity of our satellites could readily be resolved by signing and monitoring a space treaty.

What these three programs have in common is their pork barrel nature. They are expensive make-work for the aerospace industry. At the most, failure of the space travel adventure would cost a dozen lives. SDI doesn't scare anybody anymore, but the prospect of effectively targeting the satellites of an adversary is real and carries the possibility of destabilizing international relations. As William J. Broad makes clear, the United States stands to lose more than any other country by having its satellites destroyed in war. It is clear that Broad doesn't support preparations for "space war," but I fear that he treats the issue a little too solemnly. Broad would have done a service if he had examined the pork barrel aspect of antisatellite weapons. Business for the aerospace industry is the only way that the space war project makes sense.

by Mort Frank, WILPF Philadelphia Branch

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