October 26, 2004

Winning Enemies

When I heard about this on the half hour BBC broadcast this evening, I couldn't believe my ears. But a Google turned up the fact that the Bush administration has indeed threatened to shoot down a European GPS system if they were allowing unfriendly parties to use it. They didn't seem in the slightest bit polite about it, either:

...According to a leaked US Air Force document written in August and obtained by The Business, Peter Teets, under-secretary of the US Air Force wrote: "What will we do 10 years from now when American lives are put at risk because an adversary chooses to leverage the global positioning system of perhaps the Galileo constellation to attack American forces with precision?"

The paper [The Business weekly] also reported a disagreement between EU and US officials this month over Galileo at a London conference which led to the threat to blow up the future satellites.

The European delegates reportedly said they would not turn off or jam signals from their satellites, even if they were used in a war with the United States.

A senior European delegate at the London conference said his US counterparts reacted to the EU position "calmly".

"They made it clear that they would attempt what they called reversible action, but, if necessary, they would use irreversible action," the official was quoted as saying. ...

It isn't that concerns about hostile groups or nations wanting to use a powerful satellite positioning system shouldn't be raised. It's in every way legitimate to bargain on the issue. But the nations of Europe are among the few countries left who are still willing to engage with us in good faith. In the dangerous position we're in, perhaps you leave the 'we will bomb you' option in a drawer until some time in the future when other negotiations fail. Because these are after all, still our friends, and they have as yet done nothing to indicate otherwise.

The BBC guest commentator, whose name I didn't catch, drew a comparison between the space plans of Bush and Kerry. He stated that Kerry had committed to opposing the weaponization of space, while the Bush administration wanted to dominate it like 'the British Navy dominated the seas' at the height of its empire.

So we have again, another clear choice. To me, this brings up the point that Bush seems to believe that future wars are so inevitable that we might as well treat other countries as if they're about to happen any day now. Given the opportunity, the belief could go down as the classic example of a self-fulfilling prophecy. If anyone's left to say so. Kerry seems to believe that wars can be prevented, and anyone glad that the Cold War never turned hot can well appreciate that.

Just when I thought that this latest bit of revealed hubris was about as bad as it could be, Juan Cole reminds us how much worse off we are compared to four years ago. Speaking of the looting of Iraq's weapons facilities, he says [thanks to Body and Soul, emphasis mine]:

Muhammad al-Baradei said that some of the nuclear material stolen from facilities in Iraq has already begun showing up in other countries. But the dual-use equipment, which has applications in nuclear weapons construction, has disappeared. (Hmm. I wonder which neighbor of Iraq might be desperately at work on a nuclear bomb and might be willing to pay top dollar for such equipment?) How bad a job Bush is doing is clear when we consider that we might well be relieved to know that this equipment went to Iran, since that means Bin Laden doesn't have it.

We're in a situation this bad, this far out of Bush's depth, and his administration is threatening the satellites of the few people left who are still willing to speak with us. People whose cooperation we need for securing intelligence, funding reconstruction of the messes we've made, and acting as go-betweens with countries to whose leaders the U.S. has become radioactive. Oh yeah, also trade and foreign investment.

The Galileo system is expected to represent a substantial economic opportunity for E.U. countries, both in terms of jobs and revenue. This is a group of nations whose E.U. expansion was compared in the Economist at the time to the U.S. making Mexico a 51st state, an expensive proposition to be sure. I'm sure the threat of the attack, as small is it may sound to our media, has a lot of resonance among Europeans.

Probably even Alexander Kwasniewski of Poland. In fact, probably especially him. The former Soviet bloc nations are becoming disenchanted with capitalism, with a freedom that means they can no longer afford to travel, and face steep unemployment rates. They know the rest of the E.U. can't afford to give them the benefits lavished on the former economic trailers like Ireland and Portugal. They know benefits to member countries are being scaled back in preparation for their full integration, even as they watch their countries and societies fall apart. Adults who grew up in what they saw as a sparse, if tense, security are watching a whole generation fall to drugs, thuggery, and prostitution. Don't think they aren't keeping an eye on the money.

I know it's a low set of expectations, to stop digging when you're in a hole. The Bush administration seems to have it's heart set on lowering those expectations on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. They've been at it so long that it would be a public relations coup for them to go a whole month without doing something so incompetent and damaging that even much better people will have a hard time filling that hole.

Posted by natasha at October 26, 2004 12:51 AM | International | Technorati links |

Don't you think it's ironic that the GPS system is called Galileo?

Posted by: blondesense at October 26, 2004 10:19 AM

It's certainly fitting that the system will be named after the first person in Europe after the Dark Ages to look up in the sky and see something besides what he was supposed to. But I'm not sure which one you're referring to. The U.S. system is just called GPS, it's the proposed European system that will be called Galileo.

Posted by: natasha at October 26, 2004 09:28 PM