A short while ago, my friend (and Liberal Resistance’s founder) Matt Blanchfield posed an interesting question. To wit, why is Trump proposing a space force, when the real and obvious need right at the moment is some sort of organization that could oppose Russia’s attack on our institutions and moral well being via the Internet.
The more I thought about it, the more it seemed a very important question, and a very good idea.
To begin, why is Trump big on the Space Force? Well, I suspect there are several reasons. First, to give him his due, we probably will need, someday, a branch of the military that would operate above the atmosphere—maybe a spin off from the Air Force, as the Air Force spun off in turn from the Army Air Corps.
But, let’s admit too that right now we don’t really need that. Some of our war fighting, in the near term, will, indeed, be conducted in space, but more in the sense of near earth orbit., and chiefly with non-crewed machines. For that, the Air Force is more than adequate. When we’ve got bases on the moon or whatever, that’s when we’ll need a genuine USSF.
However, there is a second, and more important reason for 45’s fascination with Space Wars. I think it’s because that’s the way his head works. He’s not a particularly foresighted man, and while I don’t know if he was ever allowed to go to so plebian a place as a movie theater when he was ten or so, I’m guessing that his conception of the future came along with some chapter or another of such deathless movie serials as Captain Video: Master of the Stratosphere and Lost Planet Airmen. I’m guessing that that it was with those movies or something like them he gained his conception of The World Of Tomorrow, with rockets rising on brilliant plumes of fire, and heroes battling (illegal) aliens.
And, then, finally, there’s another…the Third…reason for his fondness of a Space Force, and probably the most important. To wit, he knows people in the aerospace industry… probably has investments there. And if anyone would benefit from massive government spending on space-based fortresses and flying aircraft carriers, t’would be them.
So, follow the money…
Therefore, we don’t need a Space Force. But we really do have a military vulnerability that needs to be address…and right now.
We are, after all, under attack. The Russian intelligence services have succeeded in disrupting our whole society, and undermining our democracy, via the web. We really do need, therefore, some kind of organization, carefully staffed and funded, which could counter Russian cyber attacks. We need something that could stand up to Russia’s famed “Troll Factory.” We need dedicated hackers to track down and kill Russian bots on the net. We need systems that would identify Russian, and other malevolent accounts on social media, and shut them down.
And we could do it so easily. We already know what we need. We already have the technology required, or can develop it without a whole lot of effort. We already have the organization itself in embryo, in form of things like the U.S. Cyber Command.
And, best of all, every year, we already have the people. Every year, thousands of young Americans with hacking skills come on line. Many others would like to acquire computer skills, but can’t afford to. The military, or something like the military, could recruit such individuals, train them, and employ them…and then, when they left the service for other ventures, the country would benefit from their abilities. We always need programmers and IT people. This would be a great and inexpensive way to train them.
So, yes, let’s consider a new branch of the military…or, perhaps, of the NSA, or some other of our intelligence agencies. Let us fund it, let us staff it, and let us use it to defend ourselves from the very obvious threat we face…
And thus our future, for the moment, is not in outer space, but cyberspace…not Buck Rogers or Flash Gordon, but rather William Gibson…or even The Matrix.
Less romantic than rockets to Mars, perhaps. But rest assured. The enemies we shall encounter in our networks will be as strange, as deadly, and as purely alien…
As anything envisioned by H.G. Wells, or illustrated by H.R. Giger.