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Satellitesand Anti-Satellites The Limits of the Possible Ashton B. Carter I Analysis of the complex anti-satellite (ASAT)issue is still in its infancy. There are signs, however, that the subject will have to grow up fast in the coming year. The Geneva arms control negotiations seem likely to depart the familiar terrain of strategic and theater nuclear weapons and launch into the lesser-known reaches of space. As the ASAT issue gains prominence, members of the national security community will need to acquaint themselves with its specialized jargon and technologies. Just as a rudimentary understanding of throwweight, flight times, and post boost vehicles is indispensable to discussion of strategic forces and arms control, so a modest knowledge of orbits and satellites is necessary for informed discussion of ASAT. One purpose of this article is to provide that background to non-technical readers. Military and technical analysis, of course, will play only a modest part in the ASAT policy process, getting submerged quickly in the swirl of domestic politics, posturing at the negotiating table, legalisms, and bureaucratic interests . In addition, the political agenda of conciliation or competition with the Soviet Union is a paramount, and within limits legitimate, basis for supporting or rejecting an arms control approach. Yet behind these political This article is based upon a paper prepared for the Aspen Strategy Group Summer Workshop on “Anti-Satellite Weapons and the Evolving Space Regime,” Aspen, Colorado, August 12-14, 1985. The author wishes to thank the Aspen Strategy Group for its hospitality. Material in this paper was presented previously by the author at: the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment’s ”Workshop on Arms Control in Space” (January 30-31, 1984; proceedings published as OTA-BP-ISC-28); the Annual Meeting of the American Associationfor the Advancement of Science (May28, 1984);the MITRE Corporation National Security Issues Symposium (October 25-26, 1984); the United States Space Foundation Annual Symposium (November 26-28, 1984); and in the author’s testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee (March 18, 1985). Ashton B. Carter is Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University, and Associate Director of the School‘s Center for Science and International Affairs. 1. See also: Robert B. Giffen, U.S. Space System Survivability: Strategic Alternatives for the 199O’s, National Defense University Monograph 82-4; Donald L. Hafner, “Averting a Brobdingnagian Skeet Shoot: Arms Control Measures for Anti-Satellite Weapons,” International Security, Vol. 5, No. 3 (Winter 1980-81), pp. 41-60; Richard L. Gamin, Kurt Gottfried, and Donald L. Hafner, “Antisatellite Weapons,” Scientzfic American, June 1984, pp. 45-55; Colin S. Gray, “Space is not a Sanctuary,” Survival, Vol. 25, No. 5 (SeptemberiOctober 1983), pp. 194-204; Michael M. May, War or Peace in Space, California Seminar on Arms Control and Foreign Policy Discussion Paper No. 93, March 1981; Lt. Col. Charles H. MacGregor and Maj. Lee H. Livingston, eds., Air Force Space Hundbook, Air University, Maxwell AFB, Alabama, AU-18 eleventh revision (August 1977); and Paul Stares, The Militarization of Space: U.S. Policy 2945-1984 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985). International Security, Spring 1986 (Vol. 10, No. 4) 0 1986by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 46 Satellites and Anti-Satellites I 47 agendas and other diversions are concrete and specificthreats to U.S. military security and to peace. These are the bedrock and ultimate rationale of all U.S. military programs and arms control efforts in space. Discussion of arms control for nuclear forces has come over the years to revolve around a canon of ”problems” and a body of lore about which developments are destabilizing or disadvantageous to U.S. security. It is no secret that many of these problems have in fact little technical or military basis; they are salient only because the political process has invested so heavily in them. Military space operations are a newer focus for arms control, and a comparable canon of problems has not yet been framed, either within the U.S. or in negotiations between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.2It is important that ASAT issues be...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1531-4804
Print ISSN
0162-2889
Pages
pp. 46-98
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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