Book Review: ‘War in Space – Strategy, Spacepower, Geopolitics’ by Bleddyn E. Bowen. Published by Edinburgh University Press, 2020
With the increasing recognition of satellite technology as critical to our daily lives, a number of states, including the US and the UK, now see space as a critical military domain like land, sea and air. Bleddyn Bowen’s new book ‘War in Space – Strategy, Spacepower, Geopolitics’ attempts to place the notion of ‘spacepower’ into the mainstream of International Relations by adding the use of space systems to the preparation for, and execution of, warfare.
Bowen notes that spacepower has provided new methods of political-economic development and poses questions such as ‘will a war begin or be decided in space?’, ‘how do satellites change the way war is conducted on Earth?” and “what difference can space warfare make on Earth?” While full answers to these questions are not easily provided at a time when rapid change is taking place, Bowen does suggest that wars may not begin in space or be decided by what happens in orbit alone, and that space technology is not going to provide simple solutions to strategic problems.
While the second part of that statement may be true, the first part can be challenged in the light of the recent rush to space activity. Satellite systems are defenceless and extremely vulnerable and now that satellite technology is employed in so many aspects of our lives – from controlling drones to weather forecasting to banking and communications to GPS – the loss of an important satellite could cause havoc. However, the loss (even through an accident such as impact with space debris or a meteorite) of a key military or dual use satellite (such as one used for early warning of missile attack) at a time of international tension could lead to a military exchange and be catastrophic. Read more