War and peace in space

Now that the U.S. has followed China's lead and blasted a satellite to bits, said USA Today, it's time for a treaty banning the weaponization of space. China's test "made the world more uncertain and dangerous," said The Wall Street Journal, but

What happened

A U.S. Navy ship blasted a disabled spy satellite late Wednesday, and a senior Defense Department official said the pinpoint missile strike appeared to have accomplished its goal by destroying a tank of toxic fuel 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean. But the mission raised concerns that world leaders would see the event as a thinly veiled test of an anti-satellite weapon. (AP in the New York Post)

What the commentators said

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

That seals it—it’s time for a treaty banning the weaponization of space, said USA Today in an editorial. Russia and China were suspicious about American motives for shooting down this satellite, and who can blame them? The Bush administration doesn’t want to sign any treaty that would prevent the U.S. from arming satellites to shoot down nuclear missiles, but “avoiding a ruinously expensive space arms race is a worthwhile goal for a nation already fighting two wars abroad and struggling with a growing national debt.”

The race is already on, said Bruce W. MacDonald and Charles D. Ferguson in the Los Angeles Times (free registration). The U.S. strike “was similar to China's unwise anti-satellite test in January 2007”—except that China didn’t even warn anybody about its plans. Even if the U.S. really did just want to safely destroy the dangerous fuel tank, we stepped “briefly across a dangerous threshold” by demonstrating our “anti-satellite capability,” and undercut our own criticism of China for “threatening an arms race in space.”

Russia and China were upset about this satellite shot, said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial, but it was their actions that made it necessary. Beijing and Moscow have winked at attempts by Iran and North Korea to develop long-range missiles, and Washington had to send those rogue nations a warning. The big difference between the U.S. satellite shot and China’s was that “China's made the world more uncertain and dangerous, while a U.S. success will make it safer.”

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.