Get Red Pepper's email newsletter. Enter your email address to receive our latest articles, updates and news.

×

Space cowboys

If the missile defence programme goes to plan, the US will be free to act wherever and whenever it wants, writes Paul Rogers

February 1, 2004
3 min read

Ronald Reagan’s star wars programme of the early 1980s was very much a part of a wider right-wing Republican vision of facing down the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. It also involved a substantial increase in nuclear armaments and a wide-ranging transformation of the US armed forces so that they would be ready and willing to defeat the Soviets in the event of war.

Similarly, the current Bush administration’s commitment to missile defence is part of a much wider strategic ambition to ensure “full-spectrum dominance” in all areas of warfare as part of creating the “new American century”. Washington’s neo-conservatives believe the US has an historic role to spread its free-market dream across the world. That way lie peace and security for the US and its allies, and stability and prosperity for like-minded people everywhere.

To the neo-conservatives it is obvious: communism is finished, capitalism rules and the US way of life is predominant. This doesn”t mean a neo-colonial role for the US, more a shaping of the world economy and polity in the US image. There is an implicit belief that no other approach is acceptable; any other vision is deeply wrong-headed, if not malign.

At the same time, there is a recognition that there are dangerous forces at work that do not recognise the wisdom and certainty of the neo-conservative vision. In a campaign speech nearly a year before his election and 18 months before 11 September, Bush said: “It was a dangerous world and we knew exactly who the -they- were. It was us versus them, and we knew exactly who them was. Today we”re not so sure who the -they- are, but we know they”re there.”

Four years later, “they” are more easily characterised as international terrorists and “rogue states”, with one of the greatest threats coming from rogue states armed with weapons of mass destruction – especially when they are carried on ballistic missiles.

An essential aspect of the neo-conservatives” vision of military dominance is missile defence. The programme would form part of a modernised nuclear arsenal that would have the ability to fight “small nuclear wars in far-off places”. This arsenal would be complemented by a range of other weapons and forces including much-expanded counter-insurgency capabilities, long-range strike aircraft, massive blast bombs and, in the longer term, airborne and space-based lasers.

The missile defence programme is motivated by the concern that, in the fairly near future, some states may develop a limited deterrent capability that will curtail the US’s freedom to act militarily in what it perceives as its interests. Much was learnt from the Scud missile problems of the 1991 Gulf War.

If missile defence can be made to work, then it removes the one limitation on US forces acting with impunity whenever and wherever necessary. The combination of such defensive systems with the world’s most powerful offensive military forces (nuclear as well as conventional) will get remarkably close to full-spectrum dominance – helping to ensure that the new American century moves closer to reality.

Paul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University and writes a weekly column on international security for www.opendemocracy.comPaul Rogers is professor of peace studies at Bradford University and writes a weekly column on international security for www.opendemocracy.com

Red Pepper is an independent, non-profit magazine that puts left politics and culture at the heart of its stories. We think publications should embrace the values of a movement that is unafraid to take a stand, radical yet not dogmatic, and focus on amplifying the voices of the people and activists that make up our movement. If you think so too, please support Red Pepper in continuing our work by becoming a subscriber today.
Why not try our new pay as you feel subscription? You decide how much to pay.

Interview: Queer British Art
James O'Nions talks to author Alex Pilcher about the Tate’s Queer British Art exhibition and her book A Queer Little History of Art

Cable the enabler: new Lib Dem leader shows a party in crisis
Vince Cable's stale politics and collusion with the Conservatives belong in the dustbin of history, writes Adam Peggs

Anti-Corbyn groupthink and the media: how pundits called the election so wrong
Reporting based on the current consensus will always vastly underestimate the possibility of change, argues James Fox

Michael Cashman: Commander of the Blairite Empire
Lord Cashman, a candidate in Labour’s internal elections, claims to stand for Labour’s grassroots members. He is a phony, writes Cathy Cole

Contribute to Conter – the new cross-party platform linking Scottish socialists
Jonathan Rimmer, editor of Conter, says it’s time for a new non-sectarian space for Scottish anti-capitalists and invites you to take part

Editorial: Empire will eat itself
Ashish Ghadiali introduces the June/July issue of Red Pepper

Eddie Chambers: Black artists and the DIY aesthetic
Eddie Chambers, artist and art historian, speaks to Ashish Ghadiali about the cultural strategies that he, as founder of the Black Art Group, helped to define in the 1980s

Despite Erdogan, Turkey is still alive
With this year's referendum consolidating President Erdogan’s autocracy in Turkey, Nazim A argues that the way forward for democrats lies in a more radical approach

Red Pepper Race Section: open editorial meeting – 11 August in Leeds
The next open editorial meeting of the Red Pepper Race Section will take place between 3.30-5.30pm, Friday 11th August in Leeds.

Mogg-mentum? Thatcherite die-hard Jacob Rees-Mogg is no man of the people
Adam Peggs says Rees-Mogg is no joke – he is a living embodiment of Britain's repulsive ruling elite

Power to the renters: Turning the tide on our broken housing system
Heather Kennedy, from the Renters Power Project, argues it’s time to reject Thatcher’s dream of a 'property-owning democracy' and build renters' power instead

Your vote can help Corbyn supporters win these vital Labour Party positions
Left candidate Seema Chandwani speaks to Red Pepper ahead of ballot papers going out to all members for a crucial Labour committee

Join the Rolling Resistance to the frackers
Al Wilson invites you to take part in a month of anti-fracking action in Lancashire with Reclaim the Power

The Grenfell public inquiry must listen to the residents who have been ignored for so long
Councils handed housing over to obscure, unaccountable organisations, writes Anna Minton – now we must hear the voices they silenced

India: Modi’s ‘development model’ is built on violence and theft from the poorest
Development in India is at the expense of minorities and the poor, writes Gargi Battacharya

North Korea is just the start of potentially deadly tensions between the US and China
US-China relations have taken on a disturbing new dimension under Donald Trump, writes Dorothy Guerrero

The feminist army leading the fight against ISIS
Dilar Dirik salutes militant women-organised democracy in action in Rojava

France: The colonial republic
The roots of France’s ascendant racism lie as deep as the origins of the French republic itself, argues Yasser Louati

This is why it’s an important time to support Caroline Lucas
A vital voice of dissent in Parliament: Caroline Lucas explains why she is asking for your help

PLP committee elections: it seems like most Labour backbenchers still haven’t learned their lesson
Corbyn is riding high in the polls - so he can face down the secret malcontents among Labour MPs, writes Michael Calderbank

Going from a top BBC job to Tory spin chief should be banned – it’s that simple
This revolving door between the 'impartial' broadcaster and the Conservatives stinks, writes Louis Mendee – we need a different media

I read Gavin Barwell’s ‘marginal seat’ book and it was incredibly awkward
Gavin Barwell was mocked for writing a book called How to Win a Marginal Seat, then losing his. But what does the book itself reveal about Theresa May’s new top adviser? Matt Thompson reads it so you don’t have to

We can defeat this weak Tory government on the pay cap
With the government in chaos, this is our chance to lift the pay cap for everyone, writes Mark Serwotka, general secretary of public service workers’ union PCS

Corbyn supporters surge in Labour’s internal elections
A big rise in left nominations from constituency Labour parties suggests Corbynites are getting better organised, reports Michael Calderbank

Undercover policing – the need for a public inquiry for Scotland
Tilly Gifford, who exposed police efforts to recruit her as a paid informer, calls for the inquiry into undercover policing to extend to Scotland

Becoming a better ally: how to understand intersectionality
Intersectionality can provide the basis of our solidarity in this new age of empire, writes Peninah Wangari-Jones

The myth of the ‘white working class’ stops us seeing the working class as it really is
The right imagines a socially conservative working class while the left pines for the days of mass workplaces. Neither represent today's reality, argues Gargi Bhattacharyya

The government played the public for fools, and lost
The High Court has ruled that the government cannot veto local council investment decisions. This is a victory for local democracy and the BDS movement, and shows what can happen when we stand together, writes War on Want’s Ross Hemingway.

An ‘obscure’ party? I’m amazed at how little people in Britain know about the DUP
After the Tories' deal with the Democratic Unionists, Denis Burke asks why people in Britain weren't a bit more curious about Northern Ireland before now

The Tories’ deal with the DUP is outright bribery – but this government won’t last
Theresa May’s £1.5 billion bung to the DUP is the last nail in the coffin of the austerity myth, writes Louis Mendee