Who Owns Space?

by Garry Davis

"How would we explain the global arms race to a dispassionate extraterrestrial observer? How would we justify the most recent destabilizing developments of killer satellites, particle beam weapons, lasers, neutron bombs, cruise missiles, and the proposed conversion of areas the size of modest countries to the enterprise of hiding each intercontinental ballistic missile among hundreds of decoys? Would we argue that ten thousand targeted nuclear warheads are likely to enhance the prospectus for our survival? What account would we give of our stewardship of the planet Earth? We have heard the rationales offered by the nuclear super powers. We know who speaks for the nations. But who speaks for the human species? Who speaks for Earth?"
--Carl Sagan

America's "cause," if there be any, is to help fulfil the doctrine of representative government on a global scale. Otherwise, the very universal principles enunciated by the founding fathers and enshrined in the opening words of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution will have been betrayed.

The supposed intellectual basis by George W. Bush's proposal of a missile system to "protect" the United States, if one could dignify it with a thought process, can only rest on the assumption that the United States "owns" the space surrounding our home planet. Otherwise, it could not place "defensive" missiles in space at will. To state this is to expose its irrationality. For, if true, each and every nation, being equal in sovereignty, including Seychelles, Nauru and Lesotho, could make the same claim, including, of course, Russia and China, the USA's geo-dialectical counterparts or "twins."

Space, by definition, is 83 miles from every single human living on the planet and vertical to nations. It "mirrors" the entire planet and human society. It reveals stunningly and starkly our common home. In brief, it forces us to face reality, the reality that the atmosphere is common, the soil is common, the water is common, the energy is common, the earth itself is common to all humans, not to mention the myriad other species who share their life with us. It exposes, by contrast, our politically parochial and tunnel vision, as Emery Reves wrote in Anatomy of Peace, as "nation-centric."

National law is, in geometric terms, horizontal, that is, it deals with relationships between humans on earth as well as relationship with other nations on earth (international law). It cannot deal with space as such, which is vertical to earth itself. The best proof is that should extra-terrestrials land on earth, national law could not define their status, prosecute them for entering illegally or legally prevent their leaving. Indeed, national law cannot even cope with the seas, the atmosphere, or the status of "stateless persons" such as the author.

Likewise, when Cosmonauts and Astronauts take off vertically, they pass no immigration or customs, no national frontiers and carry no national passports--what an absurdity! Upon their return, they break no national laws of entry. (It would be amusing as well as instructive if a Russia manned satellite landed one day in a Kansas cornfield or the Columbia landed in a plowed field near Minsk.) Therefore, "legally," they leave and return to earth as humans, not as national citizens. Some of them have had interesting holistic and no doubt embarrassing statements to make upon their return to earth.

Law concerning human relations in space, by definition, must obviously be global, agreed to by all the citizens of the world.

As President Bush continues to advocate the monopolization of space, he cannot escape the obvious relevant legal questions: How high does national law extend? And by what constitutional right? Does he consider that his discretionary powers arrogate to him a legal right to pollute our common space with national conflicts he cannot resolve on earth? Does he not recognize such a policy as not only treason to humankind and to each human but fundamentally illegitimate? Or does he claim that the constitution framers meant for a U.S. president to claim legitimacy over the very space blanket surrounding the entire planet? For that is the program he is advocating as U.S. President.

If it were not for the dignity of his office and the obvious affront to the American people, one could claim clinically that the man occupying the White House is as insane as the would-be assassin, John Hinckley, of former president Ronald Reagan. While he owes his present mandate, such as it is, to a constitutional process, like Reagan, his "Space Wars" scenario is a reliance on destruction so massive as to threaten the entire human race whereas the pitiful Hinckley only tried to eliminate one person. One has the right to ask who then are the "enemies of humanity?"

To consider that a political fiction, one barely 200 years old, can monopolize or "militarize" space around the entire planet is to suspend, or better, deny the accumulated moral and wisdom heritage of over 3,000 years.

The human venture into space, in fact, already raises our civic status to the planetary level, a status this writer claimed over thirty years ago (emulating Socrates and Erasmus). Yet the US president, while pledging to "defend the Constitution" continues to ignore the required wholesale approach to world peace in his simplistic and illusory advocacy of "security through strength" for the United States alone.

Fortunately, his two-dimensional view of the world is being increasingly exposed as inherently irrational (if not criminal) and inadequate to the safety and wellbeing of the American as to our human race itself. That is why serious men and women from all walks of life not only question his policies but are awakening in vast numbers to the reality of one world and the imminent danger it faces.

The bottom line is, as Jonathan Schell brought out startlingly in Fate of the Earth, the term of the exclusive nation-state has run its historic course. Humanity's survival depends on human, i.e., global institutions of, by and for the people of the world.

George W. Bush's responsibility to that survival is exceedingly heavy at this fateful moment, as is all nation-state leaders. They will all have much to answer for if they fail to understand and act accordingly.