Yes, Donald Trump really is thinking about organizing a space patrol. Writing in The Washington Post, John Wagner notes that, “President Trump mused again Tuesday about adding a new branch of the military — a Space Force — and this time made clear he is thinking seriously about it.” Apparently, he said as much during “a ceremony at the White House, where he presented the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy to the U.S. Military Academy’s Black Knights football team for its victories over Navy and Air Force.”
In a word, Yikes.
The scary thing is that there very well may be good reasons to consider a sixth branch of the military. Increasingly, it does seem that we will fight at least part of the next war (God forbid that there is one) in space, or at least near earth orbit. (Sorry, folks, Battlestar Galactica and the Death Star are still a few hundred years away yet.)
But the idea that Trump might be the one to build it is terrifying. This, after all, is a man who organized nothing successfully for decades, whose cabinet and other appointments were meant to destroy the very departments they headed, whose time in office has been one long stream of scandals and errors, and whose closest advisors seem to be corrupt, or incompetent, or zealously authoritarian, or all three.
For such a man to undertake the formation of a sixth branch of the services—an enormously complicated task involving the transfer of men and women, technology, and money from the existing services to a new one, and which may also require the invention of entirely new war-fighting techniques—would surely be inviting disaster. And anyone who doubts that should glance at the history of the formation of the American Air Force during and after World War II, or, at about the same time, the organization of the Russian (then Soviet) Strategic Rocket Corps. In both those cases, even though the individuals involved were extraordinarily talented men and women, the process of forming a new service out of almost nothing was fantastically complicated, with confusion, conflict, office politics, and fear plaguing the effort at every turn.
So, here’s a suggestion. Let’s hold off on the Space Force, particularly since it would involve breaking some rather serious international agreements (the Outer Space Treaty of 1967, for one) at least until we’re certain we’ve got things a bit more under control, and we’ve got someone at the helm who actually knows what they’re doing.
Who knows? If we’re very lucky, maybe we’ll get a Captain Kirk or two. Or a Spock.
Such folks are useful to have around.