Even more bizarre are the arguments the Senators' report makes in favour of the weaponization of space, arguments which seem, pardon the pun, to have been conceived of in a vacuum, morally, historically and legally speaking.
Why would we put weapons where they have never gone before? How can we possibly ask emerging states to abstain from the use of nuclear weapons when we are prepared to ratchet up warfare
by militarizing space?
The truth is that there is nothing inherently evil about weapons, just as there is nothing inherently sacred about space. Weapons can be used in both good and evil causes and space has become – for all practical purposes – an extension of the earth’s circumference.
In 1906, no one believed that man would ever fly. Yet by 1913, aircraft were being used as bombers in the First World War. We ignore the future use of space to our peril. Space is already being used for military purposes. Weaponization is just around the corner.
Major powers have the capacity to defeat existing satellite systems. If that were to happen, Canada and our allies would lose the capacity to defend ourselves.
To pretend that there is a moral distinction between militarization and weaponization is flawed logic. To make a moral distinction is to ignore history and human nature, and places Canada and Canadians in a position of great vulnerability.
First, pace the Senators, at least some weapons are inherently evil, as historical and legal developments of the last century show quite clearly.
First, in the earlier part of the century, poisonous weapons and asphyxiating gasses were outlawed, the principle being that combatants may not avail themselves of absolutely any means to fight.
Efforts have been made, similarly, to recognize the inherently evil nature of bateriological, chemical and nuclear weapons as well. Indeed, the position that there is 'nothing inherently evil in weapons' is a very odd one to be taken by Senators from Canada, a country which led efforts to ban the inherently evil weapon known as the landmine because it is, by its nature, an indiscriminate killer of both combatants and non-combatants.
Dismissing arguments against space weapons because space is just like every other field of combat likewise ignores the body of international law already in existence which contradicts the Senators' argument. Again, oddly for Canadian Senators, they ignore the 1967 Outer Space Treaty, signed by Canada in a year of some national significance, which among other things bans the placement of WMD in orbit or on the moon.
This treaty--while far from adequate on its own--nevertheless represented what the UN has called a 'progressive step' towards ensuring that space is used for peaceful purposes for the benefit of all humankind.
In its inadequacy, the OST is no different from the NPT--also far from perfect--but the answer is not, like the Senators, to argue in a vacuum as though these positive legal and historical steps had never been taken, but to continue the work of progress, to take further steps to further limit the means states have to use violence or the threat of violence to settle their conflicts.
In my view, it's really the Senators themselves, not their opponents, who ignore history when they gloss over a century or more of international efforts to regulate and reduce armed conflict.
Rather than talk about actual developments related to the field they're dicussing (and I've only scratched the surface here on what they've ignored), they refer us to a sort of 'state of nature,' where faulty historical analogies between the development of flight and the development of space weapons are made equally inevitable by, well, by inevitability itself.
The Senators are right about one thing: there's nothing that makes space any more sacred than the rest of the realms human beings have savaged with conflict, but they draw the wrong conclusion from that premise.
Unlike the Senators, I don't agree that it's ignoring 'human nature' to want to stop space weaponization, because I think it's human nature to look at your mistakes and try to learn from them: humanity's experience with weapons on land, sea and air is surely more of a mistake to be learned from than a model to be followed by extending the same mentality of violence out into the heavens.
That's the conclusion I draw, at least.