Bogged down on earth, Bush looks to the heavens

The president's unilateral plan for space.

Published October 18, 2006 3:41PM (EDT)

If you can't beat the Democrats in Ohio or the insurgents in Iraq, maybe it's time to shine the old "Eye of Mordor" somewhere else. The president has an idea: space.

In an order signed more than a month ago but not announced publicly, George W. Bush said that the United States opposes treaties or anything else that would limit U.S. access to the "Final Frontier" -- and that it will take whatever action it deems necessary to "protect its space capabilities, respond to interference, and deny ... adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests."

Maybe the lack of gravity is making people dizzy: An administration official tells the Washington Post that the new space plan actually encourages international diplomacy and cooperation.

The official says that there is no arms race in space, and analysts tell the Post that "political sensitivities" will probably force the Pentagon to work on technology with dual military and civilian purposes rather than moving at warp speed on space-based weapons.

Still, as the Post notes, a comparison of Bush's space plan with the one left behind by the Clinton administration underscores the dramatically more militaristic approach being taken now. The Clinton plan's top goals: "Enhance knowledge of the Earth, the solar system and the universe through human and robotic exploration" and "strengthen and maintain the national security of the United States." Bush's top goals: "Strengthen the nation's space leadership and ensure that space capabilities are available in time to further U.S. national security, homeland security, and foreign policy objectives" and "enable unhindered U.S. operations in and through space to defend our interests there."

Translation: Fewer lunar landings and research missions, more laser weapons and ramming satellites. And if this whole Military Commissions Act deal doesn't stand up at the Supreme Court, maybe the president can start renditioning detainees to the Klingons. Not that it would make a difference. With habeas corpus gone now, space isn't the only place where no one can hear you scream.

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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