The recent creation of a Space Force by the United States is further evidence that we humans take violence and militarism with us wherever we go. We have been an utter failure in creating peace on earth, and now with the creation of a Space Force we embark officially on the journey of a new moral failure of not creating and maintaining peace in space.
We have been militarizing space secretly for years, but now we are openly promoting and celebrating it, which means we will likely prioritize it and fund it at even higher levels than before.
Given that the United States has now created a “Space Force” and plans to officially and publicly militarize space, I am reminded of the position of my religious tradition, the United Methodist Church, on the issue. The United Methodist Social Principles explicitly reject the militarization of space.
The current 2016 version of the Social Principles states the following:
The universe, known and unknown, is the creation of God and is due the respect we are called to give the earth. We therefore reject any nation’s efforts to weaponize space and urge that all nations pursue the peaceful and collaborative development of space technologies and of outer space itself.
“The Community of All Creation” section of the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church that is being presented for approval at the 2020 General Conference [the section for which I served as convener of the writing team] states the following about protecting space:
God’s creation encompasses not only the earth but the entire cosmos, including space. Our charge to be responsible stewards thus extends well beyond humankind’s immediate environs and encompasses not only our own solar system but also other galaxies. Hence, we reject the exploitation, commodification and militarization of space. We express our hope that the exploration and settlement of space, including the moon and other planetary bodies, take place peacefully and cooperatively, and in such fashion that the benefits and resources of any further exploration and development accrue to all humanity.
With the creation of a Space Force, the United States is creating a space arms race, and the only persons who will truly benefit are the capitalists in the military industrial complex. We are blowing the opportunity to make the final frontier one of peaceful cooperation rather than violent corporate profiteering. There are much more pressing challenges that require our attention and investment than the militarization of space.
Humanity has not yet shown itself morally ready to venture into space in the search of new worlds that will more than likely lead to us to exploiting, commodifying, and militarizing them. Our history and our current state of affairs have sadly proven that is better for us not “to boldly go where no one has gone before.” We will likely ruin wherever we go like we are currently ruining earth.
Unless we figure out ways to live together in our current world house with love, hope, social and environmental justice, and peace, why would we want to take our propensity for hate, fear, injustice, environmental destruction, and violence to other worlds? They would be better off without us.
Some space enthusiasts like the billionaire Elon Musk [whose company SpaceX will likely make significant sums of money from the militarization of space] have spoken out in favor of a Space Force, saying that it is inevitable that we will need defense forces to protect our activity and exploration of space. Musk even excitedly proclaimed that this past week’s creation of the Space Force was de facto the beginning of StarFleet envisioned in Star Trek.
I love Star Trek and Star Wars as science fiction. Both provide amazing truth and mythic drama about the human condition and our connection with each other and the cosmos, but space exploration is not going to play out remotely like either one of these epic stories, and we do not need a StarFleet or an Interstellar Alliance to Restore the Republic, and we definitely do not need a Death Star.
The militarization of space that is found in both Star Trek and Star Wars need not be our future in space. We have an opportunity as a species to explore space peacefully together as a joint venture of all humanity, unless we simply choose not to owing to greed for profit and power. The establishment of a United States Space Force is not an accomplishment to celebrate but rather a development to lament and from which to repent.
*For a more peaceful vision of international cooperation in space, see the most recent United Nations draft resolution on International cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space.
Editor’s Note: The accompanying cartoon was corrected to reflect the accurate amount Congress approved for the space force. Trump originally sought $72.4 million but Congress ended up appropriating $40 million.