January 2, 2006

Thomas Graham: Space Weapons and the Risk of Accidental Nuclear War

Thomas Graham, Jr., a former special representative of the president for arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament, has penned an OpEd about the potential risks of space-based weapons.

Here's an excerpt:
The history of the last 50 years teaches us that, if dangerous weapons and technologies are to be controlled to the safety and security of all, it must be done early, before the programs become entrenched. That time may well be now with respect to weapons in space. The United States does not have a secure future in space without broad and sustained international cooperation. The deployment of weapons in space, whether offensive or defensive, would make this necessary cooperation difficult if not impossible. There would likely be retaliation, which would seriously degrade the progress that has been made over the last five or six decades toward multilateral international cooperation in space.

The groundwork for a comprehensive treaty-based regime has been laid, and the importance of this objective is clear. Much work remains, but the creation of a space regime, under which the international community decisively enshrines space as a peaceful environment, ultimately is the only thoroughgoing alternative to a weaponized space free-for-all. The United States and the rest of the world risk being rendered forever vulnerable to the vagaries and fluctuations of technology development. In this age of a worldwide struggle against international terrorism, this is the last thing we should want.

Preventing the weaponization of space is of paramount importance to world stability. Any deployment of weapons of a significant nature in space, particularly highly capable weapons systems such as a space-based missile defense, could provoke countermeasures. There are many important assets in space, and it is highly likely that they will only continue to flourish in the current sanctuary environment in place since the days of Eisenhower. Above all, we should never take the slightest chance of impairing early warning systems on which the long nuclear peace between the United States and Russia may continue to depend.

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