They Just Don’t Make Nukes the Way They Used To, Do They?

In a reply to my last post, Mark claims that he “pretty much nuked this one over on my own blog.” Man, they sure don’t make nukes the way the used to….

Mark says:

Jon ends this section with a very oft repeated line that people have used over the years when they doubt the bad intentions of tyrannies. I think that the history of the current government in China should give one pause before ridiculing the idea that it might break treaties when convenient.

I don’t doubt that China might have bad intentions. What I do doubt is that they’re stupid enough to act on those bad intentions when the costs would obviously far outweigh the benefits. I couldn’t care less about the “intentions” of dictators, so long as they lack the capability to act on them. As I pointed quite clearly, if China broke this particular treaty, they would be putting billions of dollars of existing assets at risk, not to mention commiting a blatant and premeditated act of war upon the US if it were dumb enough to murder alt.spacers.

If China murdered a bunch of US citizens in a case where they were obviously the aggressors, do you think for a second that the US wouldn’t retaliate, or at least sanction some sort of retaliation? Do you honestly think that China is so freaking stupid that they would do something like that? And for what? A chunk of rock that they probably couldn’t even get any economic benefit out of during a shooting war?

I don’t worry about their intentions because I know that they fully understand how stupid it would be to act upon them.

In any case, Jon’s citing of the Outer Space Treaty does not address the scenario. The Outer Space Treaty applies to national states, not to private entities. The Chinese would not, under the treaty, be able to restrict access to the Moon by–say–a NASA expedition. But the treaty is silent about private entities. So, the Chinese giving the boot to Lunacorp (or pick your favorite name) may be aggressive and bad, but it would not be illegal under the Outer Space Treaty.

Actually Mark is wrong here, but that’s just par for the course. If he actually bothered to read a little about this treaty, he would see that private entities are treated as subsets of the state under which they operate. China has no right to prevent Lunacorp for instance from landing on the moon. If they took force against Lunacorp, it would be an act of war against the US. How dense is Mark? How desparate is he to find some straw he can grasp to justify a stupid and irrational space transportation architecture?

That’s an interesting scenario, an alt.space company proposing to wage war against the largest nation state on Earth. Let us suppose that a private company actually decides to threaten China’s space assets. China would be quite within its rights to call that piracy and terrorism, proving its point that such a company should not be allowed to operate on the Moon or even exist. It would demand that whatever country that company was incorporated in should seize it’s assets and arrest it’s corporate officers. If that country failed to do so, China’s position would be that said country would be aiding and abetting piracy and terrorism and that China would therefore be free to act accordingly.

Oh, threatening to murder citizens of another country is kosher, but even hinting that such an action might have negative results for China is terrorism? Maybe in Mark’s wingbat world. No, placing a military base on the Moon in the first place would be illegal, using it to threaten others would be more so. Acting upon that threat would be an act of war. Reminding China that were it to commit an act of war, and a violation of the treaty it’s supposedly trying to defend, would result in them no longer being protected by said treaty isn’t terrorism.

As for Sun Tzu, let me assure Jon and all that I have read the book. Believe me, despite what Jon and others have said, the establishment of a Chinese base on the Moon would be a classic Sun Tzu tactic. Can anyone imagine any sane person running a private company proposing to engage in a military confrontation without the support of another nation state with the military power to prevail? I think not. China would thus be able to, in effect, own the Moon without fighting.

And can anyone imagine China trying to start a shooting war with the US over a private company trying to land on the Moon? Private US companies are still made of US citizens. If they are acting legally, and are attacked illegally by China, that would be murder, and an act of war against the US.

Now, if the private company were dumb enough to actually attack China’s space assets first, he might have a point. But since the private company is within its rights to land on the Moon in the first place, they would probably call China’s bluff and remind them that any action they take would be an act of War. I ask again, does Mark seriously think China is dumb enough to risk so much for so little?

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Jonathan Goff

Jonathan Goff

President/CEO at Altius Space Machines
Jonathan Goff is a space technologist, inventor, and serial space entrepreneur who created the Selenian Boondocks blog. Jon was a co-founder of Masten Space Systems, and is the founder and CEO of Altius Space Machines, a space robotics startup in Broomfield, CO. His family includes his wife, Tiffany, and five boys: Jarom (deceased), Jonathan, James, Peter, and Andrew. Jon has a BS in Manufacturing Engineering (1999) and an MS in Mechanical Engineering (2007) from Brigham Young University, and served an LDS proselytizing mission in Olongapo, Philippines from 2000-2002.
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4 Responses to They Just Don’t Make Nukes the Way They Used To, Do They?

  1. Kelly Starks says:

    > What I do doubt is that they’re stupid enough to
    >act on those bad intentions when the costs would
    >obviously far outweigh the benefits. ==

    Most of your “obvious” issues are fairly specious, or imaginary.

    >==if China broke this particular treaty, they would
    >be putting billions of dollars of existing assets at
    >risk, not to mention commiting a blatant and
    > premeditated act of war upon the US if it were
    >dumb enough to murder alt.spacers.
    >
    > If China murdered a bunch of US citizens in a case
    >where they were obviously the aggressors, do you
    >think for a second that the US wouldn’t retaliate,
    >or at least sanction some sort of retaliation? Do you
    >honestly think that China is so freaking stupid that
    >they would do something like that? And for what?

    If you’ld been paying attention to the last couple decades of international news you’ld notice MOST nations don’t think we’ld retaliate. MOst of the trouble in the mid east was because everyone from Sadam to Bin Laden was CERTAIN the US was a paper tiger who wouldn’t fight back. Chineese military leaders have made similar statments about us.

    To be fair we generally DON’T fight back. Not when embaseys are attacked, military craft, etc. We bury the dead – make some speachs – and politically look the other way. Its routine enough to be a resonable asumption.

    Past that what would we do? Attack their sats? We have foar more in orbit then them, and are economy and military is far more addicted to them.

    Sanction them?? HA! With their economy sktrocketing so fast, adn so many powerfull people screeming to open up access to their products? Not going to happen.

    > A chunk of rock that they probably couldn’t
    >even get any economic benefit out of during a shooting war?

    Well this is the big thing stoping them, and everyone else, its just not worth steeling.

    But if it was? If say they needed Helium 3 for their fearce explosive power demand? Remember they alone expect to add more power demand in the next 20 years, then the total power demand of the US. Their demand is driving up world oil prices. So if they thought taking the moon would solve that for them — they could, and their likely wouldn’t be much cost, unless it cost us a lot as well.

    Things like the UN would no more stop them from this, then they stoped them from anything else they felt strongly about.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “And can anyone imagine China trying to start a shooting war with the US over a private company trying to land on the Moon?”

    No we can’t, which is why they could get away with it. It seems silly even to consider it. However, expecting any other nation’s rational response to be the same as our own particular rational response is an irrational speculation.

    We really don’t know what responses will be until we get there. Did we expect the chinese fighter pilot to knock down our spy plane? Did we expect the Chinese to refuse return our men and aircraft? Were they risking war? If I were president, hell yeah.

    ken anthony

  3. Jon Goff says:

    Ken,
    I think that there’s a huge difference between the public’s opinion about a spyplane and its pilot and a group of unarmed civilians. Do you honestly think that the US public would just roll over and allow another nation to murder their fellow-citizens without any outcry? Especially post 9/11? Killing people like that is an blatant act of terrorism, and I highly doubt that any other nation would be dumb enough to risk being called a sponsor of state terrorism.

    As for how to deal with all this, I think the US should just threaten to pull out of the treaty that ended the practice of granting Letters of Marque and Reprisal. Privateers aren’t pirates or terrorists, and granting letters of Marque to the injured party would be a perfectly legitimate way of dealing with the problem. Privateering and letters of Marque have a long and succesful history, and I think that threatening to open that can of worms would be a good way to get China to back down.
    ~Jon

  4. Anonymous says:

    ??????????? this is a very strange conversation to have, of all the terible things that happen around the world and how much america is the route of most of the problems, why would bother to have a conversation that reinforces that america and its citizens only think about themselves and blowing people up, retaliation. The real problem is america is a big bully, that on accasion gets punched back only to kick and scream and complain how innocent they are. Maybe its all those hormones the but in your meat out there.
    by the way china would get away with murdering whole bus loads of americans + the only people who dont care who they kill is generally america hense you always going to war. i wonder what will happen in a hundered years from now when your not the most powerful country in the world and you cant beat people in submission(try to- iraqs not working)if the seeds of hatred dont come back and bite you. You gloat at how america is this and that and forget your talking about lives, so i hope your just kids having a silly conversation and not adults who vote and bring people like bush to power. And if anyone wishes to defend him, my only agument is he is the number factor for why the world in the last 7 years has got so dangerous and everyday it gets a little worse and will proberbly carron that way for 30 or more years until someone finnally proves god is a myth lol.

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