Socialist Worker

Star Wars' nasty son

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1731

The widely touted 1980s revival should send shivers down everyone's spine. Jason Donovan and The A Team were bad enough first time round. So was the fear that a madman in the White House might trigger a nuclear war (out of forgetfulness or plain fanaticism).

George 'Hail to the Thief' Bush has summoned up those 1980s images of proliferating nuclear bases, US threats to destroy 'evil empires', and a generation of teenagers scared that the world would end in the next four minutes.

Egged on by the arms manufacturers, Bush plans to hike military spending just as Ronald Reagan did 20 years ago. He is pledging billions for a version of Reagan's most lunatic scheme-the 'Star Wars' missile defence system. The National Missile Defence system, or 'Son of Star Wars', will cost at least $50 billion.

The system is supposed to make the US invulnerable to attack by long range missiles. Building it means ripping up a quarter century old treaty between Russia and the US.

The new system has nothing to do with the US military's claim that it faces a threat from what it calls 'rogue states'-Iraq, North Korea, and, absurdly, Osama bin Laden, an individual trained by the CIA. There is not a shred of evidence that any of them could get even one missile anywhere near the US, let alone pose a nuclear threat.

Even if they could, Son of Star Wars wouldn't be much use. It doesn't work. The Pentagon had to fiddle the results of tests last year to claim that there was any chance of blowing up hostile missiles. Whether the system can be made to work or not, the huge increase in US military spending will have one very real effect.

It will force China and Russia, potential rivals to US power, to increase their military spending as well. Key figures in the US ruling class fear China could challenge them if its economy continues to grow.

So they hope to force China's rulers to 'spend themselves into an early grave', much as Reagan did to Russia with the 1980s arms race. He forced an economy half the size of the US to match it missile for missile. Bush is adding a new twist to Bill Clinton's foreign policy, which brought repeated military intervention and China believing the US had deliberately blown up its embassy in Belgrade.

Even the US's allies are worried by the escalating tension. European governments oppose the new weapons system, deepening the divisions in the NATO alliance that were apparent during the Balkans War.

New Labour of course is not one of them. Blair has refused to rule out allowing the US to turn the Fylingdales radar station in North Yorkshire into an integral part of Son of Star Wars.

His decision may have something to do with the cash New Labour gets from arms manufacturers such as BAE Systems and Raytheon, a US company which will make a fortune from Son of Star Wars. British governments playing valet to the US military never seems to go out of fashion.


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Sat 20 Jan 2001, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1731
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