Dohiyi Mir
    In Which NTodd Says His Peace

Sunday, September 21, 2003
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US vs. the World: GPS And Misguided Men

BBC (via PRC News via Modulator):

[T]here's a European challenger to America's GPS supremacy, and after years of Euro-wrangling, the Galileo satellite constellation is about to enter its critical final phase. The European rival is deeply unnerving for the American military.
Due to be up and running in five years, and billed as the first wholly-civilian navigation system, Galileo consists of 30 small satellites...working together in a constellation.
Europe and America have clashed because America wants what amounts to a veto over Galileo in times of military need, in other words, to be able to knock out the entire Galileo system. The problem is that one of the main signals Galileo will use for its public service is the same as one the US military has also set its sights on. America claims this risks interference problems. The Pentagon also wants to be able to switch off any civil system at any time. But if it blocked the Galileo frequency, it would also be blocking its own military signal, obviously a disaster.

I find this all interesting because I have a couple handheld GPS receivers and find them extremely valuable while hiking and when I'm in unfamiliar cities. Plus I'm a geek.

Anywayz, the US has enjoyed a monopoly on GPS technology and apparently the military is reluctant to give that up, even when it's our allies providing the competition. Now Russia and China are signing on to this project as well, which only increases the concern. Recall that our posture is to prevent anybody from threatening our superiority of arms and technology, so this looks to be yet another area where a rift could develop that further cements the "US vs. Everybody Else" dichotomy.

I mentioned an article in a comment thread below that seems to be germane here as well. Niall Ferguson asks in the Summer 2003 issue of Hoover Digest: What Is Power?:

[P]ower is not just military power; or rather, military power depends on economic growth and political institutions.

Another line of argument is that power is diplomatic, not military: Precisely the threat posed to smaller countries by the power of the United States is encouraging them to combine against America.

This is an argument that has a special appeal to Europeans. They know that the EU is a military pygmy...However, by acting collectively and through the institutions of the postwar international order—the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, NATO—the Europeans may be able to restrain the United States. Samuel Huntington once argued that European integration was "the single most important move" as the rest of the world responded to American hyperpower and that it would ultimately lead to a "truly multipolar" twenty-first century. The fact that the United States spent weeks vainly trying to persuade France and Germany to back military action against Iraq suggests that there is at least some truth in this view.

So we might still have great military/technological power at the moment, but there are other forms of power and to a large extent BushCo has weakend the US in that respect. By valuing and exercising our military might over all else, we have lost standing and leverage in the world. In light of our quagmires in Afghanistan and Iraq, where even bringing our great military power to bear has not produced the expected raging success, I submit that we have projected power from a position of weakness only to our detriment.

I especially like Ferguson's conclusion: partly about material things: guns, butter, men, money, oil. But it is also about morale. In a world characterized by the diffusion of most of the material elements of power, real power may therefore come to depend on having credibility and legitimacy. Faith cannot move mountains. But it can move men.

If we stay true to our ideals, we can be incredibly strong. Unfortunately, BushCo has undermined our founding principles at home and abroad, and we are no longer a real beacon of freedom or a constructive force for change in the world. That will have a greater negative impact on our security than Europe and China getting their own GPS.

As MLK said: "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."


[Update: changed the title and fixed some typos.] 

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