I specifically mentioned in Part I of this post that I’d be discussing the illegitimate options (ie illegal options) that China could take if it wanted to “take over the moon” or at least prevent others from visiting there. The basic point I think you’ll quickly see is that none of these simplistic and ameteurish ideas are even remotely workable, realistic, or rational. In other words, I’m still not quaking in my boots.
UN Fig-Leaf Approach
After claiming that my previous post (which I already stated was only going to discuss above-board and legal ways that China could try to claim the Moon) shows that I’m ignorant about military tactics, Mark provides this rather bizarre little scenario:
Allow me to present a scenario. The United States follows the suggestions of Jon, Rand, and others and stops the NASA return to the Moon. About 2020 the Chinese land a manned expedition and declares that they will now, under the authority of the UN, serve as stewards of the moon and its resources to make certain that certain entities do not “exploit them” and deny them to the peoples of the world, the common heritage of whom they are.
The Chinese build up a small base at the lunar south pole. However, let us say that a plucky alt.space firm decides to ignore the Chinese announcement and, having solved the problem of manned space flight to the Moon, lands a ship at the lunar north pole.
The Chinese tell the alt.spacers to get themselves away from the Moon as they have not filled out the proper paperwork (which is long, complicated, and impossible for anyone the Chinese do not want on the Moon to comply with.) Fail to leave and a ground to ground missile will take your space vehicle out. Then you will die.
Sensation on Earth. A protest is filed at the UN. China, Russia, and France veto the protest in the Security Council.
The plucky alt.spacers have to pack up and leave. China owns the Moon defacto, though not dejure.
The problem Mark is overlooking is that there’s no legitimate way China can do this without violating the very treaty that he claims they would be upholding.
Now that I’ve actually read a bit of the OST (test available here), I think my case is even firmer that such a move by China would be blatantly illegal under the OST. Here are a few relevant quotes from the treaty (which China has ratified):
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, on a basis of equality and in accordance with international law, and there shall be free access to all areas of celestial bodies.
This means that any nation trying to restrict the access of any other nation to outer space or celestial bodies such as the Moon would be in blatant violation of this treaty.
Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means.
A Chinese-only military base on the Moon used to prevent other nations from being able to freely use and explore the Moon would be illegal under this treaty. Now, if they allowed the US, Europe, and other UN peacekeeper nations to also use that base, they might be able to get away with having it there, but do you really think that a base that has US, Canadian, British, and other western peacekeepers there is really going to allow them to use aggressive military force against unarmed civilians?
The Moon and other celestial bodies shall be used by all States Parties to the Treaty exclusively for peaceful purposes. The establishment of military bases, installations and fortifications, the testing of any type of weapons and the conduct of military maneuvers on celestial bodies shall be forbidden.
Anyhow, it’s quite obvious that Mark’s scenario would be blatantly illegal under the very treaty it is trying to protect.
“But so what?” Mark will probably say. “Isn’t China an “Evil Communist Dictatorship” (TM)? “Are you really naive enough to trust a dictator”? “Haven’t you learned anything from [insert favorite false-historical-analogy here]?!?”
Blatantly Illegal Force
So, realizing that there is no legitimate and legal way China can block others from using the Moon, let’s talk about if they try to do so by main force. So, somehow China manages to miraculously create a huge base on the Lunar South Pole with a bunch of missles, both ground-to-ground and anti-spacecraft, before NASA or any private entity can get there (cause those Evil Com-yoo-nists are so much smarter, competent, and wise than us poor helpless Capitalists, dontyaknow). Plucky alt.spacer company Harriman Industries with it’s reusable translunar tugs and landers shows up in orbit around the Moon. Chinese officer contacts them and gives some BS about how China is enforcing the OST to prevent any Evil Capitalist Running-Dogs from exploiting and raping our Precious Bodily Fl….erm….Nearest Celestial Neighbor.
What is the poor alt.spacer to do? Doesn’t China hold all the cards on the Moon?
No. Not by a long shot.
In such a situation, I imagine that Harriman Industries would contact the Chinese government, with something along the following lines:
From: Harriman Industries, Inc.
To: Chinese Embassy
To whom it may concern,
We are delighted to hear that you have taken on such an honorable and noble task as enforcing Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, Including the Moon and Other Celestial Bodies. What a noble document indeed! We at Harriman Industries understand the importance of guaranteeing space to the free use of all nations, and the importance of non-interference with the property of other nations. In recent years nations such as your own, that of the United States, and others have put literally billions of dollars into satellites and other economically valuable entities in space. Without the concept of non-interference, what would the world be like?
You have such lovely satellites, it sure would be tragic if something were to happen to them…
Anyhow, we will be landing at the coordinates given to the UN under auspices of the treaty, and will be setting up a base to aid in the exploration and utilization of local resources. We look forward to peaceful cooperation in the future with you and your nation.
Sincerely, your friends in the peaceful development of space,
What Mark completely overlooked in his shallowly-reasoned scenario is that even if China has a toehold on the Moon, it still has most of its valuable economic assets either in orbit around the Earth, or on Earth itself. The very laws that China would have to break in order to use force to prevent others from accessing the Moon are the very laws that China relies on to protect its economic assets in space. Is it really dumb enough to try setting a precidence that allows other nations to interfere with its property at will? At that point, they have to start asking themselves. Is preventing others from accessing the moon really worth losing all of my Earth orbital assets?
Speaking of military tactics and strategy, I wonder if Mark has ever read Sun Tzu:
The highest realization of warfare is to attack the enemy’s plans; next is to attack their alliances; next to attack their army; and the lowest to attack their fortified cities.
For this reason attaining one hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the pinnacle of excellence. [Defeating] the enemy’s army without fighting is the true pinnacle of excellence.
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