Why Donald Trump’s Space Force is both funny and frightening
Yonden Lhatoo tries to make sense of the US president’s fancy to create a new Space Force and ends up feeling amused, confused and mostly alarmed again
“Space Force. Spaceforce. Space. Force.”
There’s something childishly comical about the way Donald Trump relishes saying the words over and over again, arms flailing and hands karate chopping invisible ninjas in the air for added accentuation.
He’s more like a toddler with a new toy than the president of the United States telling the world he has decided to boldly go where no man has been before and “dominate” the final frontier.
And now his voter base has eagerly taken up the new mantra. After “lock her up!” (referring to defeated presidential election rival Hillary Clinton) and “build that wall!” (his promise to shut out illegal immigrants and make Mexico pay for it), the US president’s fanatical fans are turning wild eyes to the skies and chanting, “Space Force! Space Force!” at cult of Trump campaign rallies these days.
“I’m hereby directing the Department of Defence to immediately begin the process necessary to establish a space force as the sixth branch of the armed forces,” he proclaimed at the White House this week. “We are going to have the Air Force, and we’re going to have the Space Force, separate but equal.”
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It could have been yet another deliberate ploy by the master distractor to divert attention away from perhaps the worst self-generated public relations disaster of his presidency. I’m talking about that boneheaded decision to incarcerate more than 2,300 children – some as young as three months – tearing them away from the arms of their parents and penning them in cages under the great, zero-tolerance policy for illegal immigrants.
But, as first lady Melania Trump summed it up for the new regime with the message emblazoned in capital letters across the back of her trendy jacket during a “humanitarian” visit to one of those children’s internment camps at the US-Mexico border, “I REALLY DON’T CARE, DO U?”
Yeah, why care about petty terrestrial problems when you’ve moved on, above planet Earth, to the prospect of zapping real aliens in space.
To Trump’s detractors, a demographic which seems to encompass most of the world beyond Middle America, it’s a silly idea. To begin with, the Air Force Space Command is already doing the job of militarising the use of satellites, rocket launches and cyberwarfare, while the Army and Navy have their own space systems.
The scale of organisational change to satisfy Trump’s fancy would be enormous to say the least, not to mention costs of cosmic proportions.
“I oppose the creation of a new military service and additional organisational layers at a time when we are focused on reducing overhead and integrating joint warfighting functions,” his own defence chief, James Mattis, wrote to members of Congress excited by Trump’s idea.
It would also ride roughshod over international agreements to ensure the peaceful exploration of space, and trigger a weaponisation race. Russia, which the US heavily relies on for rocket engines and human access to space, is already warning of a tough response, and you can bet China won’t take it lying down either.
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To Trump’s supporters, he’s merely bringing the military reality out into the open, as the US is already in a space arms race with adversary nations and has a genuine need to protect its satellites, for starters.
At the same time, you have to wonder how much of a grasp Trump has over all this when he makes bizarre statements like this: “Remember: economically, militarily, scientifically, in every way, there’s no place like space.” Say what?
Trying to fathom what goes on in this space cadet’s mind and what it entails for the rest of humanity can make you scream in frustration. But remember, in space no one can hear you scream.
Yonden Lhatoo is the chief news editor at the Post