Space Force: out of this world imperialism

Japhy Barrera, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham branch

Since President Joe Biden’s inauguration last month he has been attempting to establish a political precedent for his forthcoming tenure. A major part of this agenda has been an extensive review of policies introduced under the Trump administration. The new president has made executive orders regarding issues of immigration, healthcare, the environment and more besides. Among this review was a quiet approval of Trump’s previously established Space Force.

The Space Force was established by Trump in 2019, upon so stating that space was “the world’s newest war-fighting domain” and that “amid grave threats to our national security, American superiority in space is absolutely vital.” During an administration of consecutive absurdities, these comments went mostly under the radar despite their alarming nature. 

The only notable observations being made about the new military branch were the uncanny resemblance of the institution’s emblem to that of Star Trek’s ‘Starfleet Command,’ as well as the troops within it being labelled ‘Guardians’. A Netflix spinoff series based off of the Space Force was also made, poking further fun at it as well as the absurd state of U.S. politics.

The Biden campaign made the rejection of Trump and his accompanying absurdities central to their agenda, but has not done so to the Space Force. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki stated that the Biden administration was to continue the Space Force and that the decision would not be revisited. Psaki originally made some dismissive remarks when asked questions about the new branch, however, they were deemed irrelevant by the assurance of unwavering support that soon followed.

Although the Space Force has been shrouded in a veil of humorous commentary and dismissive irony, its actual implications are far more troubling. The creation of the branch was guided by Trump, but ultimately had bipartisan support, and had been in the making for decades. 

Since the Cold War, American rhetoric surrounding space has been murky. Campaigns by NASA in the 1960s that proclaimed a desire for exploration and scientific advancement always had more geopolitical motives than they let on.

The USSR had put the first satellite into orbit, the first man in space, the first woman in space, and the first probe on the moon, among other achievements. This prompted the U.S. to mould a narrative of the ‘space race’ onto which their triumph was predicated. Space was no longer about scientific advancement and exploration, but rather a vapid showing of American exceptionalism, with the flag on the moon being its crowning spectacle. The dissolution of the Soviet Union less than fortuitously coincided with a significant scaling down of U.S. space programs, a downsizing that would last until recently. 

Renewed interest in space has been driven by a plethora of capitalists hoping to seize its potential dividends. Corporations like Elon Musk’s ‘SpaceX’ and Richard Branson’s ‘Virgin Galactic’ are pouring billions into commercialising space and space travel. Musk, who is now the wealthiest person on the planet, has made himself a celebrity on the basis of colonising and ‘occupying’ Mars. His ideas have captured the imaginations of many, though his broader intentions have far more sinister undertones.

The labelling of space ‘colonisation’ is not at all a mischaracterisation, however. Trump’s telling of “the world’s newest war-fighting domain” is far more telling of the agenda than Biden will likely ever give, but the intentions clearly remain with the new administration. The Space Force intends to guide interplanetary corporate colonisation, and protect it militantly. 

Capitalism has always induced the export of capital, assaulting sovereign nations on the basis of profit. As monopolies and oligopolies form, they run out of domestic capacity and go overseas, but viable foreign options are now too running dry. 

With the age of conventional conquest more or less over, the neocolonialism being adopted is naturally incorporating the new frontier. In outer space, there is quite literally an untouched galaxy being eyed up by an American empire running out of options on the ground. 

Japhy Barrera

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