The United States can reestablish military superiority over the Soviet Union if it can field "even a partially effective" space-borne antiballistic missile (ABM) system, says a former intelligence official and retired Army general.
"Superiority is a perfectly reasonable thing for our side to have," Lt. Gen. Daniel O. Graham asserted in a speech to a defense forum here last week, declaring that history is "driving" the US into space. "One day, one nation or . . . a consortium of nations is going to establish the same kind of domination out there that the British once had over the high seas," he said.
The general, who served as the director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) from 1974 to 1976, asserts that with space-borne defense against Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) the US has "a historic opportunity . . . to change the whole strategic equation for the future."
The military spacecraft that would shoot down Soviet ICBMs could be launched from the space shuttle, a Boeing 747, "or any of our boosters," says General Graham. Such "space cruisers," as he calls them, would wreak their destruction with missiles until lasers became available. According to the general, the Navy has already developed a laser.
He explains that the space cruisers are unmanned, but adds that there would be a manned space vehicle among them to control them.
The general observes that the Soviet Union has "a simple arithmetic problem" to solve in order to "pin down" US Titan and Minuteman missiles. "All they have to do is make sure they can deliver two warheads for everything we put on the ground for them to shoot at," he says.
"We've got to get away from that simple arithmetic problem and make them a very serious, complicated calculus problem to solve. . . ."
General Graham says he believes that if the US had a space-borne ABM system that would "catch the Soviet missiles on the rise," the Soviet general staff "would not know how many missiles were going to get through and, what's even more complicating, which ones."
Besides restoring US military superiority over the USSR, a space-borne ABM system would, General Graham's view, reduce the urge on both sides to amass more and more nuclear weapons.
The general adds that if the US built such a space-borne defense, "we would be doing more for our allies than any other single program that we can think of. Japan and Europe [would] get defended whether they like it or not." Such a system, he observes, would show NATO that "this country is not in a position to be blackmailed by the Soviet Union."
Besides placing space cruisers in orbit, General Graham proposes sending solar power satellites aloft as well.
General Graham maintains that solar-power satellites are perfectly feasible pointing out that NASA has already designed ones that can produce 5 billion watts --"enough power to take care of all the electrical requirements of New York City forever."
He adds that such satellites can beam their power back to Earth in a manner that is "100 percent environmentally benign."
The space cruisers would protect the solar-power satellites General Graham explains.
He believes that it would take five years to build a space-borne ABM system and 12 years to put the first solar-power satellite up, but that it would take "some kind of Manhattan Project . . . to do it."
He suggests that the electrical power generated by the solar power satellites would be something to trade to third-world countries in return for their "raw materials and their good behavior, for that matter."
General Graham who is cochairman of the hawkish Coalition for Peace Through Strength, says he envisages opposition to his proposals from several quarters, not least from "legalists." Insisting that the US is barred from creating a space-borne ABM system by the 1972 treaty it signed with the Soviet Union limiting such systems -- as well as by the UN Outer Space Treaty of 1967.
"I've looked over those treaties," retorts General Graham, "and every sergeant-level guardhouse lawyer I ever knew could . . . make the case that what I have proposed . . . is perfectly legal."
He contends that a space-borne ABM system is infinitely preferable to a massive rearmament program.
He observes that last year the Committee on the Present Danger recommended spending $256 billion over five years to make "a start in improving the nation's defense posture. The results are too meager for the amount of resources that you're putting into the problem," he says.
The Monitor has learned that powerful figures on Capitol Hill are showing much interest in General Graham's suggestions, fearing that public support for high defense expenditure will dissolve should the US, despite all it has spent, be less prepared militarily in two to three years than it is now.
General Graham claims that a program to build military and solar power satellites can be embarked upon "with fewer dollars, in less time, and with a great deal more public support than [can] the incremental approach of trying to catch the Soviets in some tail chase for numbers of missiles, planes, tanks, ships, and so forth."
"And we have the advantage of the shuttle," he adds. "The shuttle is a railroad train into space. It is my view that the Soviets lag us badly in creating any such system."
But his optimism is not exactly unconfined. He cautions that Moscow is working toward creating the very capabilities he is proposing the US hasten to acquire.