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Heavenly Ambitions: America's Quest to Dominate Space [Kindle Edition]

Joan Johnson-Freese

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Book Description

In the popular imagination, space is the final frontier. Will that frontier be a wild west, or will it instead be treated as the oceans are: as a global commons, where commerce is allowed to flourish and no one country dominates? At this moment, nations are free to send missions to Mars or launch space stations. Space satellites are vital to many of the activities that have become part of our daily lives—from weather forecasting to GPS and satellite radio. The militaries of the United States and a host of other nations have also made space a critical arena—spy and communication satellites are essential to their operations. Beginning with the Reagan administration and its attempt to create a missile defense system to protect against attack by the Soviet Union, the U.S. military has decided that the United States should be the dominant power in space in order to protect civilian and defense assets. In Heavenly Ambitions, Joan Johnson-Freese draws from a myriad of sources to argue that the United States is on the wrong path: first, by politicizing the question of space threats and, second, by continuing to believe that military domination in space is the only way to protect U.S. interests in space.

Johnson-Freese, who has written and lectured extensively on space policy, lays out her vision of the future of space as a frontier where nations cooperate and military activity is circumscribed by arms control treaties that would allow no one nation to dominate—just as no one nation's military dominates the world's oceans. This is in the world's interest and, most important, in the U.S. national interest.

Product Description


"[Johnson-Freese] rightly discusses at length the emerging U.S.-China space relationship... One of the most convincing parts of the book is devoted to the risks of miscommunication between Washington and Beijing on their respective strategic intentions in space."-Survival: Global Politics and Strategy "A thoroughly researched and praiseworthy book."-Astronomy Now "[Heavenly Ambitions] provides an understanding of the almost indecipherable national security space bureaucracy and all its stakeholders, [and] is the first work to measure these triumphant images against the realities of technology and politics."-Quest "A detailed, well-written, and accessible book."-Geopolitics "Heavenly Ambitions should be read by everyone who makes policy, or who thinks seriously about policy. By highlighting dangers such as confusing desirability with feasibility and ignoring the increasingly global nature of space, Johnson-Freese points out key pitfalls of the current U.S. approach to space policy, and suggests a more productive way forward."-David Wright, Union of Concerned Scientists "Joan Johnson-Freese clearly identifies the present state of America's space program, the critical issues and challenges the United States faces, the urgent need for action, and the course the United States should follow in its future endeavors in space. Heavenly Ambitions is a book that should be read and heeded by all those involved in the making of this nation's policies in space."-George Abbey, former director, NASA Johnson Space Center

About the Author

Joan Johnson-Freese is Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs at the Naval War College and author of Space as a Strategic Asset.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 804 KB
  • Print Length: 186 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 081224169X
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press (26 May 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00C3K67U2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Can space dominance plans survive rational analysis? 23 Aug. 2009
By James A. Vedda - Published on
Following up on her previous book "Space as a Strategic Asset," Joan Johnson-Freese exposes the inconsistencies, inaccuracies, and deceptions behind the advocacy for deployment of space weapons and long-range missile defense systems. Even if the technology and the resources to deploy such systems were available today (which they are not, she argues), there are serious strategic and diplomatic pitfalls associated with this path.
As in many political controversies, the debate over military space capabilities too often pushes aside facts, unbiased analyses, and common-sense decision-making in favor of oversimplified emotional appeals, partisan posturing, and stakeholder lobbying. Among the many questionable arguments that the author tackles head-on is one that claims space is just another medium of inevitable human conflict that should be treated the same as land, sea, or air: the U.S. should seek superiority and dominance. The author makes a strong case that there are significant differences in the medium of space that make it unadvisable to adopt a military space doctrine that closely mimics the traditional warfighting doctrine of the other areas. She also notes that when the "space should be treated the same" advocates are confronted with the fact that the land, sea, and air domains all live with rules of behavior and limits on actions, they quickly switch gears and claim that space is different and should have no restrictions.
A short review can't do justice to all the issues that the author addresses, which she backs up with rigorous research. Her aim seems to be to expand the debate and debunk myths rather than to propose comprehensive solutions, although her final chapter makes the case for better international coalition-building, recognizing that the U.S. doesn't hold all the cards in space anymore, and is unlikely to do so again regardless of its level of space investment.
Some readers may question whether this discussion is necessary, since Ronald Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative is history and George W. Bush is no longer in office. The author convincingly shows that the issue hasn't gone away, and in fact has persisted across generations since the beginning of the space age regardless of who was in power.
The content of the book is thought-provoking and deserves to be considered alongside other positions on this matter. The layout of the book needs some improvement, however. The font size is small, and in the block quotes that the author uses frequently, the font is even smaller. It could use some pictures or graphics to break up the text, but there are none. One gets the impression that the publisher was trying to produce this volume in as few pages as possible. Definitely a candidate for a Kindle edition so the fonts can be adjusted.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Solid Discussion of National Security Space Issues 8 Oct. 2010
By Roger D. Launius - Published on
"Heavenly Ambitions," by space policy scholar Joan Johnson-Freese, discusses "how our approach to space over the past two decades has squandered a once huge reservoir of goodwill toward American efforts in space" (p xii). Johnson-Freese's central argument revolves around the issue of "control" employed in discussing national security issues on Earth does not work in when considering the "high ground" of space. She comments that it, so ubiquitous in studies of national security issues, obscures more than it illuminates.

In many respects this book is a response to the belligerent language of the Bush administration, especially as manifested in the 2006 National Space Policy. That policy statement drew fire when first released because of its strident comments about U.S. perquisites: "the United States will: preserve its rights, capabilities, and freedom of action in space; dissuade or deter others from either impeding those rights or developing capabilities intended to do so; take those actions necessary to protect its space capabilities; respond to interference; and deny, if necessary, adversaries the use of space capabilities hostile to U.S. national interests" (p. 60).

Johnson-Freese's chapters walk through these issues associated with national security space in a chronological manner. She comments on the evolution of U.S. Space policy, the debate over space weapons, strategic communications, diplomacy and arms control, and the global aspects of spaceflight.

So what does all of this mean? That is, of course, the central question of all historical study. After a more than fifty-year gestation it is now apparent that space is central to the national security needs of the United States. That may well have been true in the 1950s, but it has become abundantly clear in the post-cold war era. The clarity of the cold war era, something commented on repeatedly since the demise of the Soviet Union, is now gone and is not likely to be replaced anytime in the foreseeable future. A new multinational great power situation exists with the United States clearly at the top of the pyramid but enjoying a lessoning superiority with every year. How do the nation's leaders stem that tide to ensure the welfare of the U.S. for the future? There is a great deal at stake in terms of the access to and control over Earth's orbit. Johnson-Freese does not overstate the importance this situation. The next few years may prove decisive in terms of establishing a regime of space control that will have profound implications for terrestrial geopolitics.
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