Technology and Culture 41.4 (2000) 851-852
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Beyond the Paths of Heaven: The Emergence of Space Power Thought
Beyond the Paths of Heaven: The Emergence of Space Power Thought. Edited by Bruce M. DeBlois. Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 1999. Pp. xxxii+572; figures, tables, notes/references, bibliography, index.
Standing on the theoretical high ground, the contributors to this anthology seek to convince us of a decline in the utility of the term "aerospace." The theme tying the essays together derives from a belief in a distinction between air power and space power. A follow-up to Paths of Heaven: The Evolution of Airpower Theory, edited by Phillip S. Meilinger (Maxwell AFB, Ala.: Air University Press, 1997), Beyond the Paths of Heaven attempts to shift thinking away from a historical merger effected in the early 1950s. The authors simply do not believe that the two should be married in a sort of aerospace vehicle like an X-wing fighter. Instead, they should be kept separate but equal--as should their doctrines. In a useful introduction, noteworthy for its honesty about the strengths and shortcomings of the contributors, Bruce DeBlois situates this volume within a new set of concepts about doctrine.
Historians of technology will find two of the essays especially useful. Frank Gallegos's "After the Gulf War: Balancing Space Power's Development" contends that that 1991 conflict, said to be the first "space war," was anything but. Rather, the United States entered the war with a space power doctrine left over from the cold war, bent on a strategic and not a tactical view of the battlefield. At issue is Gallegos's belief that "a lack of space power doctrine and experience caused the majority of the space-related problems in the Gulf War" (p. 66), a lack that still endures. He provides summaries of the efforts at postwar lessons-learned in an effort to show that cold war security requirements established a pattern of U.S. space-system and doctrinal development difficult to overcome. More significantly, he advocates the establishment of "a single military space sector," particularly through "the integration of all military and intelligence space activities" (p. 90). This does not sit well with members of the space community who are still locked in the cold war mind-set.
In David Ziegler's "Safe Heavens: Military Strategy and Space Sanctuary Thought" one can follow the historical development of policies that resulted in limiting U.S. space missions to surveillance, reconnaissance, intelligence, and communications. Zeigler contends that policymakers did not pursue [End Page 851] the weaponization of space except as a reaction to Soviet developments, preferring instead to "hedge their bets" with the "technological insurance of space weapons R&D programs" (p. 202). Such programs included the 1960s ground-based antisatellite weapon that used the Thor intermediate-range ballistic missile. Weapons in space, Ziegler concludes, signify a break with historic U.S. space policy. His premise that space policy remains consistent with cold war policy leads him to propose a unique thesis: that space serves as a weapons-free "sanctuary" (p. 193). American interests, he feels, are better served today by preserving the weapons-free nature of space. The rapid proliferation of smaller, multiple-vehicle space systems will make space a safer place to operate in the future, as such systems have less potential for the single-point failure to which today's large satellites are susceptible.
Although many of the essays begin with a historical survey, they are not about the history of space power doctrine. Rather, they serve as primary sources on the development of such doctrine. For those interested in that subject and its possibilities, Beyond the Paths of Heaven is the best available collection of information.
David C. Arnold
Major Arnold is an officer in the U.S. Air Force and a doctoral student in the history of technology at Auburn University. His research concerns the development of the military's command and control network for space.
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