Document created: 1 December 2007
Air & Space Power Journal - Winter 2007
Space Warfare: Strategy, Principles and Policy by John J. Klein. Routledge (http://www.routledge
.com), Taylor and Francis Group, 2 Park Square, Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxford OX14 4RN, United Kingdom, 2006, 196 pages, $115.00 (hardcover).
Extremely provocative? No. Earth shattering? Probably not. Needed? Definitely. Meaningful? Time will tell, but the possibility certainly exists. John J. Klein has arguably achieved what many others have only attempted in the past. He has developed a “comprehensive” set of space principles that captures the unique aspects of the space medium. In response to his perceived need—which many share—and based on a thorough review of existing space literature, Klein tries his hand at establishing an in-depth space bible from which doctrine and tactics development can build. He exhibits a solid grasp of past military strategic thinking as he systematically develops his strategy.
Sir Julian Corbett’s maritime strategy is the model for Space Warfare, but Klein also draws frequently from other strategists such as Carl von Clausewitz, Henri Jomini, and Mao Tse-tung for critical aspects of his strategy. Despite the relatively short length of the work, he covers a vast set of issues. He begins with the role of space as an aspect of national power, describes its unique features as well as those common to other mediums, and finally articulates a systematic and relatively comprehensive series of constructs to shape the discussion of space. He introduces or redefines such terms as celestial lines of communication, strategic positions, dispersal, and concentration. The principles, in total, are sufficiently comprehensive to underpin the majority of specific operational-level activities that one can imagine in space over the next few decades.
Because Klein clearly grasps many of the unique aspects of the space medium, he does not give in to the temptation to rely on one specific set of historical principles to ensure complete labeling of various space missions and attributes—as Air Force and joint doctrine have done often in the past. Instead, in many areas he brings a fresh perspective that forces a different angle on space thinking. From this thinking flow a significantly modified space vocabulary and some concepts different enough from conventional writing as to approach novelty. However, very few of his specific recommendations are new; in fact, most go back years. Despite this, his framework builds an underpinning that, if accepted, would drive the US national-security space community in new directions.
As he develops various principles within the strategy, Klein predominantly uses examples of existing capabilities or ongoing activities to explain particular aspects of his structure. Here, however, the effort falls short. Many career space professionals, others who have worked closely with the space community, or those who have relied heavily on space capabilities will grasp his principles and may resonate with his argument that they call for new lines of reasoning in several areas. However, these individuals may find themselves feeling less than satisfied with the depth and creativity exemplified by his examples. More explanation of how the various principles fit together as a strategic whole would have added to the work. One has a sense that Klein is very capable of providing a more in-depth description and of tying together his concepts, but the reader may feel somewhat like the college student in an advanced math class where “the proof is left to the student.” This book is listed as first in the publisher’s Space Power and Politics series,so perhaps the follow-on works will satisfy this need. However, the titles of the books comprising the rest of the series do not encourage confidence.
Klein compares his strategy to the various space “schools of thought,” current joint doctrine, and the Space Commission Report. His discussion of the schools of thought offers convincing support for his argument that a more comprehensive approach is needed. The doctrinal discussion points out deficiencies and the eternal need, often ignored, for strategy and doctrine. Certainly the Space Commission Report is the most thorough effort yet undertaken to analyze national-security space topics and to prescribe policy initiatives. However, regarding the commission report and joint doctrine, Klein seems overly concerned with explaining away differences in terms and concepts rather than articulating the greater need for a fundamentally new framework. One then wonders, “Why the new model if the differences are not significant?”
Finally, Space Warfare goes beyond this new framework for space and dives into the more dangerous waters of specific policy options and recommendations, the latter well grounded and flowing reasonably well from the articulated strategy. They also shed additional light on the strategy by describing natural outcomes one might foresee if the strategy is adopted. He argues for the incorporation of a more defensive strategy as the “stronger” form of warfare. Strategic positions for defense, he maintains, ensure “a significant level of access” and a “measure of self-defense against surprise attack” (p. 149). Klein persuasively argues that greater emphasis on the concept of dispersal, an idea not sufficiently captured in previous writings, is critical to any future strategy. He also calls for the establishment of a Space War College based on the need for military “culture and strategy . . . to acknowledge that space is a relevant medium of warfare” (p. 151). Such a move, he believes, would “foster a conducive environment where more fully developed strategies for space warfare can be contemplated” (p. 152).
The significance of Space Warfare will depend on the degree to which its terms and principles are adopted. While the space community certainly has its own technical language, with multiple dialects, a need exists for a strategy language to underpin policies, doctrine, acquisition decisions, and tactics development. John J. Klein has given us, at minimum, an alphabet and a structure from which that language could evolve. As with Jomini and Alfred Thayer Mahan, some—as this reviewer has done—will point to shortcomings with the arguments. But members of the space community may perceive, as naval- and land-warfare professionals did in the past, that in the end the benefits of having the basis for a strategy—to support development of detailed policies and to guide decisions—eventually overcome the value of continuing debate over its merits. Time will tell.
Col Chris D. Crawford, USAF
Peterson AFB, Colorado
The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of
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