Back in March, Donald Trump suggested the idea of militarising space and going to Mars while addressing marines in San Diego. Since then, the idea hasn’t really been fleshed out much by the White House, with the extent of the detail being limited at best.
However, while the name sounds like something from a sci-fi film, the reality of the proposal is that the “force” would manage satellites and aid US missile launches, and carry out crucial work for the US military.
Many, though, have pointed out that the Air Force already does the role of the Space Force very effectively, and as such, they argue, it is a completely redundant idea. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL), has even gone so far as to suggest that the planned Force would “rip the air force apart”, at a time which he says is crucial due to the important work of the air force.
Bernie Sanders has also attacked the President, saying that he would rather the money be spent on universal healthcare before anything is invested in the Space Force. He probably has a good point — although a reduction of the Air Force’s portfolio would see some of the cash return to the Treasury.
In general, both Republicans and Democrats have been deriding Trump’s proposal due to the redundancy of the so-called Space Force and the amount of money it would cost. But, even if the idea seems pointless at the moment, is the President actually looking to the US’ future and attempting to improve the country’s ability to achieve its strategic goals?
If the US can get a military foothold in space, it would be securing a significant advantage over its current and prospective adversaries, such as Russia, China, and Iran (Turkey will likely be added to this list after Trump single-handedly destroyed its currency, the lira). For a global superpower, an advantage this large and consequential could ensure that its status is preserved and with it, its influence over smaller, less developed countries.
Perhaps the “Space Force” seems now a little less gimmicky and more of a strategic necessity, especially given the emerging dominance of Russia back on Earth. In the Arctic region, Russia is winning the battle, and their sphere of influence is expanding significantly, with most of Central Asia and some Eastern European separatists allying themselves with Russia.
Russia’s geopolitical dominance is set in the context of the Trump administration’s failures with regard to foreign policy. Protectionist trade policies and the President’s “America First” doctrine have seen the US recoil into itself somewhat. Establishing dominance in space could see America get back onto the level of its main rival.
Of course, Trump doesn’t really understand any of this, otherwise he wouldn’t have destroyed the USA’s global standing in the first place — but this isn’t to say that the militarisation of space is an inherently bad idea. While Bernie Sanders and Bill Nelson certainly have valid concerns, perhaps the “Space Force” could go some way toward mitigating the failures of the current administration.
However, with voices from the whole political spectrum opposing the proposal, Trump is being widely discredited and, if he wasn’t already, made into a laughing stock. Indeed, the controversy over the Space Force may well extend the Democrats’ advantage for the Midterms, as he (and by extension, even if it is a bit of a stretch, the GOP) loses loyal voters from the Armed Forces and particularly the Air Force. Ultimately, when people feel that their own personal situation is threatened, their political beliefs will be cast aside.
With every controversy and debate, it does seem as though Trump is weakened. I usually hesitate to predict politics, but it seems highly unlikely that the Republicans will hold onto both the House and the Senate in November — and they’ll probably lose the White House in 2020 too.