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In military planning, space war has emerged from science fiction to real time. And Rumsfeld, once dubbed the "Energizer bunny" by Jesse Helms, is Bush's point man to make sure the job gets done right.
Soon after taking office in May 2001, Bush outlined his new space war policy in a speech at the National Defense University. "We need a new framework that allows us to build missile defenses to counter the different threats of today's world," the president declared. "No treaty that prevents us from addressing today's threats, that prohibits us from pursuing promising technology to defend ourselves, our friends, and our allies is in our interests," he added, referring to what his administration interpreted as the ABM Treaty's limitations on research.
Last month, on October 10, Rumsfeld gave an update of where things stand: "Today, under President Bush's leadership, we have revitalized the missile defense research, development and testing, and we're on track to begin deploying the first rudimentary missile defenses, we hope, in the latter portion of next year."
A unilateral, first-strike military policy involving mini-nukes throws to the winds all the elaborate containment theories, agreements, and treaties that have been the stuff of international diplomacy since the end of the second world war. Instead, it opens the world to an era of pure anarchy.
In this setting, as the Bush administration sees it, a star wars umbrella becomes not an elegant research project but a paramount tool for ensuring national security. Space is at the very heart of American military strategy.
"More than any other country, the United States relies on space for its security and well-being," Rumsfeld said at a Pentagon news conference in May,2001. "It's only logical to conclude that we must be attentive to these vulnerabilities and pay careful attention to protecting and promoting our interest in space."
The U.S. wants to use its satellite and computer network to bring down earth-based missiles as well as enemy satellites. In a speech last winter, Rumsfeld said that a major transformation process is under way within the Defense Department, focused on a set of goals, including maintaining "unhindered access to space" and protecting U.S. space capabilities from enemy attack.
"We need to prepare for new forms of terrorism, to be sure," Rumsfeld said on January 31, 2002, in his talk at the National Defense University, "but also attacks on U.S. space assets, cyber attacks on our information networks, cruise missiles, ballistic missiles, and nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. At the same time, we must work to build up our own areas of advantages, such as our ability to project military power over long distances, precision-strike weapons, and our space intelligence and under-sea warfare capabilities." The Department of Defense has been "reorganized and revitalized" to move forward on missile-defense research and testing "free of the constraints" of the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, Rumsfeld said, and "to better focus on space capabilities." Rumsfeld said "defending the U.S. requires prevention, self-defense, and sometimes preemption."
Within hours of the Chinese sending their first man into space, U.S. officials were claiming he was a spy and began setting the stage for space as a combat zone. "In my view it will not be long before space becomes a battleground," Lieutenant General Edward Anderson, deputy commander of the U.S. Northern Command, said at a geospatial intelligence conference in New Orleans. "Our military forces . . . depend very, very heavily on space capabilities, and so that is a statement of the obvious to our potential threat, whoever that may be." He added, "They can see that one of the ways that they can certainly diminish our capabilities will be to attack the space systems. Now how they do that and who that's going to be I can't tell you in this audience."
Additional Reporting: Ashley Glacel