The New High Ground: Strategies and Weapons of Space-Age War, and: The Non-Nuclear Defense of Cities: The High Frontier Space-Based Defense Against ICBM Attack, and: American Military Space Policy: Information Systems, Weapon Systems and Arms Control (review)
- SAIS Review
- Johns Hopkins University Press
- Volume 4, Number 1, Winter-Spring 1984
- pp. 187-191
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS Howard Isenstein and Pam Samek, editors The New High Ground: Strategies and Weapons ofSpace-Age War. By Thomas Karas. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1983. 336 pp. $15.95. The Non-Nuclear Defense of Cities: The High Frontier Space-Based Defense Against ICBM Attack. By General Daniel O. Graham. Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Books, 1982. 152 pp. $25.00. American Military Space Policy: Information Systems, Weapon Systems and Arms Control. By Colin S. Gray. Cambridge, Mass.: Abt Books, 1982. 128 pp. $28.00. Reviewed by Michael Vlahos, director, Security Studies Program, The Johns Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute, School ofAdvanced International Studies. President Reagan's so-called Star Wars speech on March 23, 1983, riveted public attention to a new dimension of the spectral fields of war: space. With overtones of historical watershed and portentous presidential decision, the speech soon ignited the passions of adherents and opponents of the militarization of the celestial. In 1983 several persuasive studies—or polemics—have added their voices to the debate. Three of those will be examined here. Two of these books represent thesis and antithesis. General Danny Graham 's vision of a "high frontier," the image of the controversy itself, has marshaled a sober defense of his scheme of space-based defense against ICBM attack in The Non-Nuclear Defense ofCities. Thomas Karas, a Washington lobbyist, has responded with a salvo resonant of Graham's usage: The New High Ground. These two rhetorics are less important in opposition than as indicators. Each illuminates a constituency on the issue of war in space. Beyond this, however, each encapsulates the sum of attitudes, values, and assumptions that permeate each constituency and defines their world views. The debate over the uses of space is not confined to itself, nor is it separable from other issues. Space policy simply represents the trendiest focus in the newest domestic struggle over a riven American world view. More than any other era in its history save one, this nation is divided at the root of its identity. The very ways in which we describe ourselves, our purpose as a people, the 187 188 SAIS REVIEW nature of our role in the world, the ways in which we assess and respond to challenge are split. Graham and Karas thus represent, in purest opposition, this divergence in the modern American world view. The ways in which they approach the issue of space, the language and the presentation of argument, is of more real interest than the transcendent truth of their judgments on technology or economics. Driven by existential postulates, each of their works is a primer. To begin, Karas's most basic truth is that deterrence strategy is mutual assured destruction (MAD)—period. Any attempts to limit damage in a nuclear exchange, or to create uncertainty in one's opponent as to how much he can damage (without imposing limits on the agent of that uncertainty), are taboo. It is not only destabilizing, but lends credence to the evil notion that it is actually possible to fight a nuclear war. In Karas's words: "We can't win a nuclear war"; both sides must be equally and completely vulnerable to retaliation against civilian society. How Americans might deal with Soviet limited provocation—an advantage-seizing initial nuclear strike—short ofsocietal suicide, remains unconsidered . Flowing from this postulate is the assumption that the Soviet leadership approaches their strategic situation much as we do. (After all, facts are facts.) We have no choice but to live together or die together. The Soviets have not used nuclear weapons, they have proclaimed themselves men of peace, and they have been the initiators of an arms control draft treaty to curb the militarization of space. Why not emphasize arms control rather than fall prey to the old snare and delusion of yet another arms race? This is, in fact, a perfect moment to pursue arms control in space, while space technologies of war are as yet in their infancy, and undeployed. This is another key postulate of Karas's world view, and it has two parts. The first is an inevitable product of any arms race: It leads to war. The second is a recent variation, subtle...